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3 contract hepatitis C from infected Ky. donor

December 23, 2011
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LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says three people have contracted hepatitis C from an infected organ donor in Kentucky.

Two adults in Kentucky and a child in Massachusetts were infected with the disease, according to the CDC.

The agency said the donor originally tested negative for the disease, which raises questions about testing. It also said the case also shows the need for better and faster communication when problems arise with donated organs and tissues.

"I think there's a lot of things that could have been done better in this event. But I don't think there's one thing that could be pointed to -- a person or an institution," Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, director of the CDC's Office of Blood, Organ and Other Tissue Safety, told The Courier-Journal . "I think this happens a lot and we don't know about it."

Kentucky state epidemiologist Kraig Humbaugh told the Lexington Herald-Leader that most hepatitis C donors are spotted, but a small percentage are not.

The two adults who contracted the disease both received kidney transplants at Jewish Hospital in Louisville. One of them had a positive result for hepatitis C on Sept. 19, but hospital officials said they didn't immediately suspect the organ transplant because the man works in healthcare, which is a risk factor for the disease.

The other kidney patient tested positive on Sept. 21.

Dr. Michael Marvin, chief of transplantation at the University of Louisville and at Jewish Hospital, said Jewish Hospital found out about the positive test on Sept. 28 and notified Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates immediately.

The CDC report says the tissue bank was then notified and began a voluntary recall on Sept. 30.

The report said 43 musculoskeletal grafts and one cardiopulmonary patch from the donor had already been sent out, including one patch that went to a child in Boston on Sept. 26. The child later tested positive for hepatitis C.

The CDC report said the tissue bank performed two types of tests on the donor -- one came back negative and another was misread as negative.

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