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Six Patients Test Positive for Hepatitis in Ongoing Probe

Six people who were patients at a Santa Barbara medical practice that is being investigated for unsafe injection practices have tested positive for hepatitis C, but the county Health Department is still working to confirm whether those patients had the disease prior to visiting the practice.

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials shut down the office of Dr. Allen Thomashefsky at 2320 Bath St., No. 307, last month after an investigation revealed universal procedures to protect patients during injections were not being followed.

The department became aware of the possible exposures while investigating a case of hepatitis C that may have been acquired from an injection at the practice.

Thousands of patients are being contacted individually and will be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Thomashefsky has not responded to Noozhawk's requests for comment.

The closure of the Santa Barbara clinic as a result of an inspection was a first for the county Public Health Department.   

Last week, the Oregon Medical Board ordered Thomashefsky to stop giving injections at another clinic he owns in Ashland, Oregon.

On Tuesday, the Health Department issued a statement saying that as of April 20, 2015, six patients had tested positive or are currently infected with hepatitis C out of 219 test results reported so far.

One patient tested positive for hepatitis B, but that case has been determined to be a prior existing infection, the department said. There have been no patients that have tested positive for HIV.

The investigation is ongoing, and more molecular genetic testing is being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to help determine if the virus found in infected patients who recently received care from Dr. Thomashefsky is genetically linked to the virus found in other infected patients receiving care during the same time period," the statement said.

The testing is a complicated process, and the results could take several months.

"The Health Department expects to find patients who may have been infected with hepatitis C or other blood-borne viruses prior to their treatment with Dr. Thomashefsky," the statement said.

"The additional testing will provide specific genetic information about the virus that is a critical step in determining the source of the infections."

Department officials are urging anyone who has received care from Thomashefsky to be tested for the three diseases, and that appropriate and early care can help prevent spread to others as well as delay or reverse liver damage in the case of hepatitis B.

Patients who visited Thomashefsky's office since June 2014 are being offered testing by the Health Department, and anyone receiving care prior to that date is encouraged to get tested through their primary care provider. 

Those wanting more information or wishing to report an abnormal outcome from an office visit to Thomashefsky can call the information line at 805.681.4373. Additional information can also be found here.

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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