OGDEN, Utah -- Two months after the Utah Department of Health launched its initial investigation, more people are testing positive for Hepatitis C.
Letters were sent out to 7,200 patients, urging them to get free Hepatitis C testing, but so far, only 35 percent have come in to get the test.
Angela Dunn, a physician with the Utah Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that number is pretty low.
“We’re hoping for about half at the end of the day but we only have a few weeks left of free testing,” Dunn said.
Thousands were potentially exposed after coming into contact with former nurse, 49-year-old Elet Neilson of Layton.
Neilson worked at both Mckay-Dee Hospital and Davis Hospital and the concern about exposure surfaced after a former patient and Neilson tested positive for the same rare strain of Hepatitis C.
“We’re looking specifically for this investigation for the specific genotype 2b, a strain of the virus,” Dunn said.
According to court documents, Neilson pleaded guilty to attempted possession of a controlled substance, so the third degree felony became a class A misdemeanor. She served no jail time and was issued a $413 fine.
Hepatitis C, a virus that attacks the liver, is transmitted through contact with infected blood, typically by sharing needles. It can stay dormant for up to 25 years.
"People can have no symptoms for decades and then all of the sudden their liver will start failing and that’s a deadly part of the disease. So it’s important to be identified early in the disease course when people don’t have symptoms so they can get effective treatment,” Dunn said.
The hospitals will be offering free testing through Jan. 31. From there, they will collect the final testing results and hope to release firm numbers on the amount of people with Hepatitis C by mid-March.
The hospitals have said they will cover the cost and care of all the patients who have been infected.