Dirty needles probe as virus infects 100
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Guangdong's health department is investigating the cause of more than 100 hepatitis C infections in a neighbourhood in Zijin county that residents have blamed on a local clinic.
A department official confirmed that more than 100 cases of hepatitis C had been recorded in the county this year.
Residents who have written about their concerns online believe there are more than 200 cases, all living near one street. They suspect the Chengdong Health Clinic of spreading the virus by using unsterilised needles.
The virus is spread mainly by blood-to-blood contact or poorly sterilised medical equipment. Infections can lead to liver cancer.
A woman who was infected with hepatitis C told China Central Television that she often went to the local clinic when she had a cold or fever and saw the doctor re-using syringes.
Another resident said his family often went to the clinic and only those who received shots - himself, his wife, his grandson and granddaughter - had been infected.
A woman said: 'Me, my mother and my daughter have been infected with hepatitis C. My daughter is only fours years old.' She said their treatment would cost hundreds of thousands of yuan. 'Where are we supposed to get that much money?'
An infected patient told The Southern Metropolis News that the clinic had only one doctor, who rarely changed the needles when he was busy and syringes would sometimes be contaminated with blood.
But the health official said past investigations had found no evidence to support the residents' suspicions.
Patients said the clinic doctor might have switched to using disposable syringes when he became aware of the investigation.
The deputy director of Zijin county's health bureau, Shen Meidi, told CCTV experts from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and its Guangdong branch investigated, both officially and undercover, and had found the clinic used disposable syringes.
Shen said the source of the infection was difficult to trace because the disease could lie dormant for years.
Xinhua said Yi Xuefeng, from the Guangdong disease control and prevention authority, denied there was an outbreak.
The incident comes just three months after a clinic in Henan was found to have infected 86 people in Anhui and Henan, many of them young children, with the hepatitis C virus.
Health authorities identified the source as unhygienic intravenous injections at an unlicensed clinic on the border between the two provinces.
Residents of Dancheng township, in Woyang, Anhui, said the doctor at the village clinic never changed needles for patients and never revealed details of the drugs he prescribed.
The health authorities denied the clinic never changed needles, but suspended its medical practice licence.