22 infected with Hepatitis C virus in Singapore

Singapore, Oct 6 (IANS) A total of 22 patients at a renal ward in Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have been diagnosed with the Hepatitis C virus, hospital authorities said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the SGH said that in early June the hospital discovered an increased frequency of Hepatitis C virus infections in a renal ward, Channel News Asia reported.

The hospital subsequently stepped up checks for the virus in patients with abnormal liver function tests in the same ward, and found 22 patients infected.

Among them, eight have died, including four who had “multiple co-morbidities and severe sepsis”, and the possibility that the Hepatitis C virus could have been a contributing factor has not been ruled out, the statement said.

Another three deaths were “thoroughly evaluated” and “no link to the Hepatitis C virus infection has been established”. One recent death is pending review.

Of the 22 infected, the youngest is 24 years old, and the remaining are between 50 and 60 years old.

The health ministry said that it has convened an independent Review Committee to provide “an objective and critical review” of SGH’s investigation and findings, as well as “added assurance” and “to glean learning points for the wider healthcare system”.

“I am gravely concerned and disappointed with the occurrence of the cluster of Hepatitis C cases in SGH,” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that is transmitted by blood-borne routes. The average time period from exposure to symptom onset is two to 24 weeks. If left untreated, the long term effect of the virus is cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.

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