A doctor infected with hepatitis B unknowingly passed the virus to at least two patients before becoming aware he had the illness.
Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System said the doctor, who performed joint replacement surgeries, discovered he had the virus after undergoing routine testing following a slight puncture wound. The doctor is from a country with a high prevalence for hepatitis B and likely had it for some time without showing symptoms, according to NBC News.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the surgeon’s own hospital immediately launched an investigation into who might have been exposed. The doctor worked at the facility for nine months. Most of his 232 patients had undergone hip or knee replacement surgery.
Of the total number of patients, two tested positive for hepatitis B that was genetically identical to the kind found in the surgeon. Those patients were treated with medication. Another six patients were found to have been infected in the past with hepatitis B, but researchers were unable to determine if they had caught it from the doctor, NBC News reports.
The report on the incident was released recently, but occurred in 2009. The researchers speculate that tiny tears in the doctor’s gloves may have allowed the virus to be transmitted.