Hepatitis fear at Welsh hospitals as patients infected
Around 5,000 women treated at Welsh hospitals are being contacted after a healthcare worker infected two patients with the Hepatitis C virus.
The retired obstetrics and gynaecology worker is known to have passed on the infection to the patients at a Welsh hospital between 1984 and 2003.
The individual mainly worked at Caerphilly District Miners Hospital.
But they also spent time at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and the old East Glamorgan Hospital near Pontypridd.
The member of staff, who conducted operations, worked at numerous hospitals around the UK in the 1970s and 1980s and those patients are also being contacted.
They are all now reviewing their records and contacting those who may have been treated.
However, public health officials said that the risk of transmission was low.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which covers the former Gwent area, said it had been made aware that a worker involved in the treatment of thousands of patients had Hepatitis C, which can lead to inflammation of the liver.
It said the virus was known to have been transmitted from the worker to two patients between May 1984 and July 2003.
A review of clinical records has taken place, and obstetric and gynaecology patients who have or may have been treated by the retired healthcare worker will be offered a blood test for Hepatitis C as a precautionary measure.
Some 5,000 patients, who are all women, who have or may have been treated by this person at the three Welsh hospitals will receive a letter and will be asked to ring a dedicated helpline to arrange an appointment in a specialist nurse clinic.
The worker was based mainly at Caerphilly District Miners' Hospital - which closed in 2011 - for seven years between May 1984 and July 2003.
But they also spent time at the old East Glamorgan Hospital between 28 May 1984 and 17 July 1984 and Wrexham Maelor Hospital between 15 May 1978 and 27 June 1978.
Dr Gill Richardson, director of public health at the Aneurin Bevan health board, said transmission could only happen if the healthcare worker had an injury causing them to bleed while treating a patient.
"As a precautionary measure, patients who may have been at risk of being exposed to the virus have been identified and will receive a letter to attend a clinic so that we can ensure they are offered testing," she said.
"Specialist nurse clinics have been set up and we will do all we can to support patients during this time.
"As many as one in 250 people carry Hepatitis C infection and it does not automatically lead to health problems.
"Treatment can help clear the infection in up to 80% of cases, which is why it's important to identify anyone who may be at risk of having been infected so treatment can be started if necessary."
An appointments helpline will be open from Wednesday, from 08:00 to 20:00 BST seven days a week.
Specialist clinics will start taking place from Friday, 13 September and patients who attend for testing will receive results in approximately two weeks.
If Hepatitis C is left untreated, the infection can cause chronic liver disease and, very rarely, cancer of the liver.
It is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact and, very rarely, through sexual intercourse.