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Seventh Patient from Closed Santa Barbara Clinic Tests Postive for Hepatitis C

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials announced Tuesday that a seventh patient at a local clinic closed down by authorities has now tested positive for hepatitis C.

The department closed the Santa Barbara clinic of Dr. Allen Thomashefsky in March after an inspection revealed that unsafe injection practices may have happened at the clinic. 

An investigation ensued and Public Health is encouraging testing of current and former patients for blood-borne illnesses including hepatitis C. Seven people who were former patients of Thomashefksy's have now tested positive for hepatitis C, six of whom are believed to be new, acute cases. One person had a prior, existing infection, according to Public Health.  

As of Monday, a total of 248 former patients had been tested.

The department is continuing to investigate the exact cause of the disease in the patients and stated last month that five of the newly-infected Hepatitis C patients had injections procedures performed by Thomashefsky on the same day.

"Our investigation has not identified any other common elements between these 5 patients other than their treatment at Dr. Thomashefsky clinic," Public Health said in a statement. No other links between the patients have been found, according to the county. 

All blood samples from the identified cases have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for molecular genetic testing, which will help find patterns of the disease in infected patients and would support the findings of ongoing investigation.

Public Health spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said that it will be a few weeks before the tests from the CDC are finalized.

"In the interim, we are continuing to follow up with those who have had positive tests as well as encourage others to get tested," she said. "The infection control breaches were not on a single day so others who received treatment may have been exposed. Testing is the only way to know."

The county has set up an information line for former patients at 805.681.4373.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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