Support Group For Hepatitis Victims - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Support Group For Hepatitis Victims

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The mysteries of the Minot Hepatitis-C outbreak include many medical questions.

Questions such as how the disease was introduced to 44 people who are not in a high risk group for contracting the virus.

And with the median age of the victims at 84, how will the disease impact elderly patients?

But there are non-medical questions as well - who are the victims?

And will they and their families get the support they need?

Jim Olson continues his series on the Hepatitis-C mystery.

When Jan Laudenschlager's and Tam Black's father was diagnosed with Hepatitis-C last July, some questions were answered. They now knew what was causing his health problems that had seemed a mystery. Of course it also raised many other questions. The biggest being how could a man in his 80s with no risk factors for contracting the blood-bourne virus spend six days at a rehab center and nursing home and end up with Hepatitis-C?

(Tam Black, Daughter of Hepatitis-C Victim) "Dad was in there for six days and he only had two blood draws and a tuberculosis test and it seems like using dad as a baseline they should be able to figure this out."

(Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe, Trinity Hospital Director of Infectious Disease) "How can somebody spend six days in a nursing home and come out with Hepatitis-C, it shouldn't happen."

But of course it did happen - to nearly four dozen people who spent time at Manor Care in Minot.

And it's been difficult for the father and mother of these women.

(Jan Laudenschlager, Daughter of Hepatitis-C Victim) "For months afterwards they didn't really want to go anywhere and they're still concerned about it."

That continuing concern is why Jan and Tam are hoping to reach out to other families who are going through this ordeal.

(Tam Black, Daughter of Hepatitis-C Victim) ""It would be nice to know some of the other victims and maybe talk with them and see what they're doing and maybe work together because it's nothing to be embarrassed about and maybe if everyone joins together we can do something or come up with another solution."

Toward that end, a meeting has been scheduled for next Wednesday where friends and family members of those who contracted the disease can meet each other, talk about their common battle, and hear from the director of infectious disease at Trinity Hospital.

(Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe, Trinity Hospital Director of Infectious Disease) "There are certain what are called "never events," things that should not happen, even if it is one that is too much."

A Never Event, that's the title of a book written by one of the 99 victims of the largest Hepatitis-C outbreak in the nation. Evelyn McKnight also started a group called HONOReform.org dedicated to making health care safer from future Hepatitis-C cases. HONOReform.org's director says forming a support group among victims and families is a great idea.

(Steve Langan, HONOReform.org) "We need to stand together in order to ask in a thorough and ongoing way for answers to these serious questions we have about how this outbreak occurred and why there are currently no answers."

And that's the bottom line for the people mired in the mess of this outbreak -

(Jan Laudenschlager, Daughter of Hepatitis-C Victim) "We'd just like to know how he got it."

...getting to the bottom of the largest unsolved outbreak of Hepatitis-C in the nation's history. Jim Olson, KX News.

During the reports this week, we heard people, including an epidemiologist with the State Health Department, say that this outbreak was not an accident.

That leads to another question in this mystery...is there any criminal investigation going on to see if someone intentionally infected people with a potentially-deadly virus?

The North Dakota Attorney General's office says there is an ongoing investigation by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

But a spokesperson with the Attorney General's office said she could not comment on any specifics because the investigation is continuing.

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