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HIV exposure warning expanded to hospitals in four states

By Amy R. Connolly   |   March 17, 2016 at 6:36 AM

WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- Health officials in Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington have warned thousands of patients they were possibly infected with HIV, and hepatitis B and C after a surgical tech allegedly swapped syringes used in surgery.

At least six hospitals are warning some 5,000 patients to get testing for the disease, but said the chances of contracting the illnesses were low. The announcement comes after Rocky Allen, 28, was indicted on charges of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit. He was accused of swapping syringes containing a powerful painkiller with other syringes.

Northwest Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle, among the six hospitals involved, recommended some 1,340 patients be tested for the diseases "out of an abundance of caution." Lakewood Surgery Center in Washington state said 135 patients were being contacted for possible exposure.

At Swedish Medical Center in Denver, some 3,000 patients who had surgery between Aug. 17, 2015, and Jan. 22, 2016, in the main operating rooms and in the orthopedic operating room Oct. 28 will be tested for HIV and both strains of hepatitis.

Allen was allegedly found swapping a syringe of fentanyl with a syringe of saline solution in at least one hospital where he worked as a surgical technologist. He was court-martialed five years ago for fentanyl theft while in the Navy.

He is facing up to 10 years in federal prison.

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