Probe of hepatitis outbreak widens
Patients who visited a Santa Barbara doctor’s office are urged to get tested for a number of blood-borne illnesses.
At least five patients have tested positive for hepatitis C after receiving injections at a Santa Barbara medical office, public health officials said Tuesday.
Now the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is urging any patients who visited the office of Dr. Allen Thomashefsky to get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
Public health officials performed two inspections at Thomashefsky’s office in November after they received information that a patient with no known risk factors developed hepatitis C following a visit. The patient underwent multiple injections at the office.
Inspectors examined the office and found unsafe practices that put patients at risk for blood-borne viruses as well as joint infections, according to the department. Public health officials say inspectors found that standard infection-control procedures were not practiced.
The multiple medical breaches led public health officials to order Thomashefsky to close his office, which was done March 19.
Thomashefsky did not immediately return requests for comment.
Thomashefsky performed regenerative injection therapy, or prolotherapy, to treat patients with chronic muscle or joint pain.
The Oregon Medical Board is also investigating the doctor and has limited his medical practice there. Thomashefsky, who has an office in Ashland, Ore., was ordered April 14 to stop performing injection procedures.
Four of the five patients who tested positive for hepatitis C had undergone injection procedures at Thomashefsky’s medical office on the same day they became infected. Three patients had no known risk factors for hepatitis C, an infection that attacks the liver.
Public health officials have performed 240 tests, and no patients have tested positive for HIV.
The department has been contacting patients who received injections at Thomashefsky’s office in the last seven years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also performing molecular genetic testing to determine whether the hepatitis C virus found in the infected patients originates from the same source.
The public health department and the CDC are investigating the cause of the outbreak.