COPY-VA could have exposed vets to HIV with used needle cartridges

BUFFALO, NY (WGRZ/CNN) - About 550 people in Western New York may have been exposed to HIV or Hepatitis B or C at the Buffalo VA Medical Center, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA says that some insulin pens that should have been used once, were used multiple times, which caused hundreds of vets to be exposed to the deadly diseases.

The VA is contacting everyone who was injected there with insulin pens at the facility between Oct. 19, 2010 and Nov. 1, 2012.

The VA has informed Congress of the problem.

"Unfortunately, from the day that new technology was introduced at the VA they did not have a protocol in place that let the nurses know they were not supposed to use the cartridge on more than one patient," said U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R - 27th District).

Although the needles were discarded after each use, bodily fluid could have remained in the cartridge, which even with a new needle, posed a risk to the next patient it was used on.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pens should be labeled with the person's name and medical information so that it is not used on other patients.

"Once this was identified, immediate action was taken to ensure the insulin pens were labeled and only used according to pharmaceutical guidelines. VA is committed to ensuring Veterans receive the care they earned and deserve, and to assuring high quality, patient-centered care as our top priority," said Evangeline Conley, public affairs officer of the VA Western NY Healthcare System.

Collins says that 716 people were injected with the pens. Of this number about 550 are alive.

"It would be highly unlikely that activity like that would cause the death of an individual, it could cause them to contract one of those three viruses," said Collins.

Patients who are at risk are being contacted to get a blood test.

Collins is also calling for a review of the medical center's policies.

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