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A nurse fired from McKay-Dee Hospital last year may have exposed as many as 4,800 patients to hepatitis C, according to the hospital, which has sent letters to all those people.
The letters were sent to people treated in the hospital's emergency room between June 2013 and November 2014 during hours when the nurse in question was working, according to hospital spokesperson Chris Dallin.
Dallin stressed that the chance of contracting the disease is low, but he said it was important for those receiving a letter to obtain a blood test, which the hospital is offering to perform free of charge.
Anyone with questions can contact the hospital at 801-387-8580.
Or they can visit the Utah Department of Health's web page at: http://health.utah.gov/epi/diseases/hepatitisC/investigation
"Most patients receiving care in the emergency department during that time period are not at risk for having contracted hepatitis C," Dallin said.
Dallin said Saturday that the hospital learned about the potential risk last month from the health department, which said that a patient who had contracted hepatitis C genotype 2b may have a connection to the nurse who was fired.
There are four hepatitis C genotypes and genotype 2b accounts for only about 10 percent of the cases, Dallin said, "So it's rare,"
Health officials learned of the potential exposure at McKay-Dee Hospital during a routine disease investigation for hepatitis C.
"We do not know the exact source of contamination between the employee and the patient who contracted HCV genotype 2b infection," according to the health department's website.
Dallin clarified, "It is very unlikely that the patient gave the virus to the nurse."
Dallin sent a news release that included this time line of events:
November 2014: Our drug monitoring system (Aesynt Diversion Monitoring Program) at McKay-Dee Hospital detected that an Emergency Department employee could be diverting medications.
November, 2014: We confronted an Emergency Department employee with this information and the employee acknowledged diverting medications and was immediately terminated.
November 2014: McKay-Dee immediately reported the diversion to local law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
September 2015: McKay-Dee Hospital received information from the Department of Health concerning a patient that contracted Hepatitis C genotype 2b, with concern that the hepatitis could be related to the employee terminated in November 2014, who was determined to have the same genotype.
September 2015: Working with the Utah Department of Health, McKay-Dee Hospital collected a list of all patients that had any possibility of coming into contact with the employee during work hours.
Friday: McKay-Dee Hospital sent letters to all patients on that list encouraging them to receive a free blood test to rule out any possibility of exposure.
Ogden police identified the nurse as 49-year-old Elet Neilson, also known as Elet Hamblin, of Layton.
According to a newsletter from the Utah Division of Professional Licensing, Neilson's license was indefinitely suspended Dec. 10, 2014, until Neilson completed unspecified conditions ordered by the department, the Ogden Standard-Examiner said.
Lt. Tim Scott of the Ogden Police Department confirmed his department got a report of a theft of drugs from the hospital on Nov. 25, 2014, according to the Standard-Examiner.
The Weber County Attorney's Office filed charges in 2nd District Court of third-degree felony possession or use of a controlled substance against Neilson in January 2015. She pleaded guilty to a reduced class A misdemeanor count of attempted possession or use of a controlled substance .
She was sentenced to a year of probation, during which she is ordered to not consume or possess drugs or alcohol and to complete substance abuse treatment.