NH DHHS Announces New Case of Hepatitis C Associated with a Previous Exeter Hospital Outbreak Case

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

(DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is reporting a newly

diagnosed case of hepatitis C infection associated with the outbreak at

Exeter Hospital. DPHS has completed an investigation into the details of

this case and transmission is believed to be due to sexual contact with one

of the previously reported confirmed cases related to the outbreak. This

new case was confirmed through laboratory testing at the Public Health

Laboratory and has been identified as a strain of hepatitis C that matches

the 32 patients infected at Exeter Hospital.

“As we said from the very beginning of this investigation more than a year

ago, this is a very complex situation and this latest case is further

evidence of that. Hepatitis C is disease that is transmitted through

exposure to blood containing the hepatitis C virus. While sexual

transmission of hepatitis C is possible, it is very uncommon. In this

particular case, there were medical circumstances that increased the risk

of sexual transmission from person to person,” said DHHS Public Health

Director Dr. José Montero.

Ways the virus can be transmitted to others also include sharing needles

during illegal drug use, tattooing with a dirty needle, or contact with a

non-sterile piece of medical equipment such as a used syringe.

DPHS began investigating the hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital in May

of 2012. Prior to today’s announcement, the total number of people

connected with the outbreak was 33, which includes the former Exeter

Hospital healthcare worker who was charged in connection with the

transmission of the virus through drug diversion.

Researchers agree that heterosexual transmission of hepatitis C is very

unusual. Generally, for this to occur there has to be an exchange of blood.

When a person has active hepatitis C infection, it is recommended that they

refrain from sex while either partner is bleeding, including from cuts,

blisters, or other skin breaks on the genitals.

For people in a long-term, monogamous heterosexual relationship with a

partner who has hepatitis C, the risk is considered low and special

precautions are not deemed necessary. Couples should, however, avoid

sharing razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers or other equipment that

could lead to blood exposure.

Following national guidelines, DPHS does not recommend routine testing for

monogamous couples. However, any partner of an HCV positive person who is

concerned for their health, or who has sexual practices or health

conditions predisposing them to bleeding during sex, should consult with

their healthcare provider about being tested.

For concerns about hepatitis C, contact the DHHS Bureau of Infectious

Disease Control at 603-271-4496 or 1-800-852-3345 x4496. For more

information about hepatitis C, visit the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm . For information

about the outbreak at Exeter Hospital, visit the DHHS website at