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Seattle Children's Patients At Risk Of Infection From Improperly-Cleaned Tools

Seattle Children’s Hospital is notifying about 100 patients who could be at risk of serious infection due to improperly-cleaned medical instruments.

Hospital officials say the risk is small, but substantial enough to warrant letters and phone calls to patients who had colonoscopies using a tool called an auxiliary channel scope. Unlike standard scopes, these instruments have an extra tube that needs to be cleaned between uses.

In early November, officials say technicians noticed one of the scopes hadn’t been properly cleaned. When they discovered another potentially contaminated one about a week later, they halted all colonoscopies and opened an investigation.

“We found that we didn’t have a robust system in place to ensure proper training of technicians new to our facility, so people who were being hired more recently weren’t getting the proper training on every step hat needed to be followed,” said Danielle Zerr, medical director for infection prevention.

Zerr said the hospital notified the device manufacturer and Public Health Seattle & King County, and has fixed the faulty procedures.

Patients affected by the lapse are getting calls and letters this week. The hospital will provide them free screenings for infections, including hepatitis and HIV.

Zerr says the two months that passed between discovering the problem and notifying patients do not increase the risk of infection or complications. No case of infection has been reported so far.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.