SOM Seeks April 24 Blood-Sugar Test Participants

UNM School of Medicine Seeks Individuals Who Participated in Free Blood Sugar Testing on April 24 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

On Saturday, April 24, a group of students from the University of New Mexico Physician Assistant program conducted free blood sugar tests at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque during the Center’s American Indian Week “Pueblo Days.” The device used to prick the finger to get the blood sample required for testing was meant for single patient use and not for multiple patients. Those who volunteered for testing that day may have been put at risk of contracting infections due to potential exposure to diseases spread by blood contact.

Despite direct faculty supervision, three mistakes were made:

- The students used the wrong device.

- They were not all properly trained on the device.

- No records were kept.

“This has never happened before,” said Dr. Bob Bailey, associate dean for Clinical Affairs for the UNM School of Medicine. “ Since the incident, we have taken steps to assure this does not happen again.”

“Following our own internal investigation, we estimated that 51 to 55 individuals were tested, which resulted in these patients being potentially exposed to other's blood,” he added. “The diseases we are most concerned about are Hepatitis B and C, although theoretically, HIV is also possible. Our best current assessment of the risk of infection is less than a 0.5% risk. Even though the risk is small it is something we are very concerned about and are taking seriously.”

Once School of Medicine officials determined that the tests could have exposed individuals, UNM collected all of the devices used, and all of the strips used to test the blood sugar levels, and secured them for working with forensic specialists.

A special team was named to work jointly with the Indian Health Service, New Mexico Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

University of New Mexico School of Medicine officials contacted and consulted with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who stated that the design of the device used to obtain blood for testing blood glucose levels may pose a small risk of transfer of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV between those tested.

“The UNM School of Medicine deeply regrets this error and sincerely apologizes to all those who may have been exposed, and to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center,” said Dr. Bailey, who is the incident commander for this event. “We are asking that those who were tested come forward so we can better assess any risk from this episode and assure that exposed persons receive appropriate follow-up testing and care. If you know someone who was tested please contact us.”

The University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexico Department of Health, Indian Health Services, and CDC are working to identify those individuals who underwent blood glucose testing at the event. Those who may have been exposed will be offered follow-up testing for Hepatitis B, C, and HIV. The costs of testing will be covered by UNM.

Public health authorities are requesting that those who participated in the diabetes screening event call Toll-Free 1-888-899-6092 or visit the UNM web site at more information and referral for screening.

Contact: Sam Giammo, 272-3322

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