One Riverside Regional Medical Center patient screened for hepatitis C has tested positive, a Riverside spokesman said.

Riverside started screening patients last week, after officials learned that a nurse anesthetist who worked there last year was suspected of infecting up to 15 patients in Texas in 2004. Jon Dale Jones, 45, worked at Riverside from July 9 to Dec. 22.

Jones has submitted to Riverside officials a lab report stating that his hepatitis C is inactive now, which means it wouldn't spread to another person. "We do not have any reason to believe this one case is linked to the nurse anesthetist," said Peter Glagola, public relations director. The patient who tested positive has been contacted, he said.

Hepatitis C is a virus that's spread through contact with infected blood. But only about 10 percent of people newly infected with hepatitis C show symptoms, which include fever, fatigue and jaundice, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Odds are that one in 139 people will test positive for hepatitis C in Hampton Roads, according to Health Department statistics. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3 percent to 5 percent of the population would test positive, Glagola said.

The patient will meet an infectious-disease physician, who will compile a complete medical history and try to determine whether the patient was exposed. DNA testing might be used to determine whether the strain of hepatitis C detected in the patient is the same as the one in the nurse anesthetist, said Patrick Haggerty, director of medical education and Riverside's epidemiologist.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 169 patients were screened, and 86 more were scheduled for screenings. Riverside's Ask-a-Nurse personnel were still trying to contact 41 of the estimated 300 who might have come in contact with Jones, Glagola said. Test results were in for 162 patients, he said.


Published: April 2, 2008