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Hepatitis C Outbreak in Nursing Home

The first lawsuit stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak in a North Dakota nursing home has been filed, according to reports. Two victims are seeking monetary damages from ManorCare Health Services, and they may not be alone. 42 other people have identified themselves as victims of the outbreak, and they allege that the outbreak is connected to the actions of the care facility. The lawyers for the first two victims are seeking to make their lawsuit a class action in order to cover all those infected with the virus while in nursing home care.

Risk of Outbreak
Hepatitis C is a virus that tends to result in chronic illness and is also potentially fatal. It is transmitted by blood, meaning that it is normally transmitted by accidental needle sticks or if the blood of an infected person contacts the eyes, mouth, or cut on the skin of a non-infected person. Those infected with hepatitis C are at extreme risk for liver cancer and cirrhosis, among other serious complications. Although the outbreak associated with ManorCare has not yet resulted in any deaths, the outbreak has been the source of a quarter of all hepatitis C infection in the US since 2008, and all 44 victims are currently dealing with chronic problems as a result of it.

Representatives of ManorCare insist that the lawsuit does not yet have a solid factual foundation. The state health department of North Dakota has only issued a preliminary report, which states that neither they nor representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could discern exactly how these patients were infected. However, the officials have advanced the theory that the infections were the result of foot and nail care or blood services.

Legal Accountability & Nursing Home Negligence
The uncertainty in this case is not unusual – in about one-third of hepatitis C cases, exact causes are not found. At any rate, the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, and a final report on the Health Department’s findings is not expected until the summer.

Legally, it will be helpful to identify an exact cause of the outbreak, but it is not necessary. In some cases, an adverse result can itself be sufficient to show that a caregiver failed to fulfill its duty of care to the patients in its control. Further, this may be evidence of a violation of state and federal statutes regarding proper operation of a nursing home.

When an incident such as this happens, there is also normally a duty on the part of the caregiver to mitigate damages. That is, as soon as the caregiver is on notice that an accident has occurred, it will have a legal duty to take steps that will limit the damage of that accident. Thus far, ManorCare seems to have done this. Representatives of the caregiver have said that they are following their infection control process, which should stem the spread of the virus.

According to the CDC, the spread of serious infection in nursing home is quite common – 1 to 3 million serious infections occur every year in the facilities. If you believe that you or a loved one have received an fection while in the care of a nursing home, you may have a claim. Please feel free to contact an experienced attorney at Levin & Perconti today.

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