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Veterans may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis

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Albany/HV: Veterans may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating whether more than 700 Western New York veterans were exposed to HIV and hepatitis through the misuse of insulin pens. YNN's Kevin Jolly has more on the investigation and what's being done for those who might be affected.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking into the possibility that more than 700 patients at the Buffalo VA Medical Center may have been infected with the HIV and hepatitis virus due to the improper reuse of insulin pens.

During a routine inspection back in November, VA officials discovered insulin pens intended for individual patients were found without patient labels on them. Although disposable needles are used with the pens, individual pens intended for one patient could have been used with multiple patients.

"Because of that, there very remote small chance that some bodily fluids could have backed up into the insulin open from one patient and therefore potentially been injected into another patient. So for that reason, the fear that there was a very, very remote but possible chance that someone was or could have been infected with Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, or HIV," said Congressman Chris Collins.

Collins says he received a memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs about the investigation. VA Officials say about 716 patients may have been exposed over a two year period and about 570 are still living.

"The VA believes based on the fact no needles were reused, that the chance of passing the infection would be very, very slight," said Collins.

YNN reached out to the VA for comment. Their spokesperson released a statement which reads in part, "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 is our top priority.”

VA officials say all veterans who were prescribed the insulin pen during inpatient stay from October 19, 2010 to November 1, 2012 will be notified to come in for testing.

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