Virginia Mason has begun contacting nearly 650 individuals treated in the medical center’s dialysis unit since February 2011 because they may have been near another dialysis patient who was hepatitis B-positive.

hepatitis B/CDC
hepatitis B/CDC

The individuals are being informed of this situation and encouraged to contact their health care provider to determine their hepatitis B status or need for further screening. Virginia Mason is offering to assist in the screening process, if needed.

“The risk of exposure to hepatitis B was very low because of our other infection-control safeguards,” said Cyrus Cryst, MD, section head, Nephrology. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are informing patients of the situation, explaining there was a minimal risk of exposure for them and letting them know we are a ready resource for any questions they have. Patient safety is always our top priority.”

Current and former dialysis patients at Virginia Mason may call 1-877-255-3793 to speak with a medical expert at Virginia Mason.

Virginia Mason has added a feature to the electronic medical record that now automatically orders a hepatitis B screening for dialysis patients. This step ensures each patient’s hepatitis B status is current. It also alerts the care team to appropriately isolate an individual who is hepatitis B-positive during dialysis. Virginia Mason collaborated with Northwest Kidney Centers, which provides dialysis services at the medical center, to strengthen patient safety measures.

Public Health-Seattle & King County and the Washington State Department of Health were notified of the situation by Virginia Mason.

Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus that ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a chronic liver condition. The prevalence of hepatitis B has declined in recent decades and is now seen in approximately one percent of dialysis patients in the United States.