Hepatitis scare in Ocean County

April 1, 2009 2:33:44 PM PDT
Five people are confirmed to have hepatitis b in Ocean County, New Jersey, and officials say all five were patients of a Toms River doctor.However, they have yet to determine if that office was the source of the infection.

Linda Bradford's husband was one of about 2,800 patients told to get a blood test to check for exposure to hepatitis b.

"First thing I did was call my husband. I was terrified. I said, 'Oh my God, what's going on here?'" Bradford said.

Dr. Parvez Dara, a longtime oncologist and hematologist with an office in Toms River and another in Whiting, is the focus of a probe by state and county officials. They're looking at how five of his patients became infected with the contagious blood-borne liver disease.

"Someone had to come in with the virus. Their blood somehow contaminated surfaces or fluids or medications," said county health coordinator Ella Boyd.

Dr. Dara was seeing patients Wednesday, but it's his lawyer, Robert Conroy, doing the talking.

Controy says health officials should be looking elsewhere.

"Our suspicion is that theres a source outside of the doctor's office. We think it might be a local hospital or it might be some other facility where these people are seen in common," Conroy said.

That is a possibility that's being looked into, but in the meantime Dr. Dara's patients are being urged to have their blood tested.

"I was really shocked but I feel comfortable with it, I feel comfortable with Dr. Dara. I like him a lot. We'll see what happens," said patient Arlene Davis.

Health officials say the hepatitis virus can be spread by contaminated needles, not changing gloves in between patients, or treating multiple patients from the same vial of medicine.

Conroy says Dr. Dara has brought in top national consultants to review infection control procedures at his offices.

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