Law enforcement in Washington arrest nurse for allegedly infecting patients with Hepatitis C

Pierce County prosecutors charged a 31-year-old nurse with second-degree assault, contending she knowingly infected two patients with Hepatitis C in Puyallup, Washington.


                            Law enforcement in Washington arrest nurse for allegedly infecting patients with Hepatitis C

A nurse who worked for the MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital was arrested last week for allegedly having infected two patients at the hospital with Hepatitis C in Puyallup, Washington.

According to the police report, Cora Weberg was taken to Pierce County Jail early May 4. Law enforcement reportedly recommended that she should be charged with second-degree assault for knowingly infecting at least two patients and also stealing injectable drugs from the facility. According to Kiro 7 News, Weberg was released from custody on May 5, reported Fox News.



“Good Samaritan and local and state health department officials have conducted a thorough investigation and determined that one of our nurses was removing higher-than-normal amounts of narcotics from our dispensing system and admitted to diverting medications intended for patients,” the MultiCare Health System said in a safety alert last week.

A preliminary finding of probable cause filed by police stated that Weberg "Intentionally contaminated medicine or another substance with her own blood; she then administered the medicine or other substance intravenously; Cora Weberg knew or reasonably should have known that her blood was likely to contain one or more blood-borne pathogens; and Cora Weberg's blood did, in fact, contain and transmit hepatitis C virus." However, she has not been charged with a crime as of the moment.



Officials at the MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital announced the possible infection of two patients last week.

As a preventative measure, hospital authorities extended a recommendation to 2,600 patients who were treated in the hospital's emergency room to get themselves tested for the infection. The potential victims are the ones who were treated in the E.R. between August 2017 and March 23, 2018.

According to The News Tribune, Law enforcement authorities in Puyallup said that Weberg “intentionally contaminated medicine or another substance with her own blood.” Previously, the staff at the Good Samaritan Hospital has said that Weberg was "surprised" to learn that she had contracted the disease after taking the test in March.



That being said, Bryan Hershman, Weberg's attorney, said that there was literally no connection between the nurse and the outbreak of the disease.

“They need to have a scapegoat,” Hershman told KCPQ-TV of the hospital.

“They can draw no connection to my client, none, and they’ve tried,” he said. “So what they know is, they’re facing civil litigation, and they’ve got to find a scapegoat. What better person than someone who’s got some narcotics issues, right?”



According to The News Tribune, hospital leaders said that patient testing is underway. They said that although officials have not released the results of the said tests, they have tested hundreds of patients for hepatitis C.

The two infected patients were tied to Weberg, who treated them, after the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department began an investigation into the incident in March. According to the report, health department officials concluded that using CDC data, the tests revealed a strong link between the two patients and the genetic source of the virus.

Although Weberg reportedly tested positive for the disease, the viral material from her tests was insufficient to bring forth a genetic link to the patients.



Having said that, Nurse Weberg questioned authorities whether she actually contracted the disease, saying that test results showing she may have been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus does not say that it had advanced to a level that allowed her to infect others.

Weberg's defense attorney said that Weberg, who no longer works at the hospital, denies having infected patients, maintaining that she did not use the same needles she used on herself on the patients.



"On the one hand, my heart goes out to these infected people. On the other hand, this investigation has been going on for months. If there was a genetic link between these patients and Cora, you would certainly think it would be definitively announced or released by the Department of Health and that hasn’t happened yet," Ms. Weberg's attorney said.

Police informed that the former nurse was arrested at the Canadian border as she was commencing a trip to Guam with her boyfriend on a planned vacation.



Ryan Portman, spokesman for the police at Puyallup, said that KCPQ investigators “would have liked to have developed some more evidence” before arresting her, but found themselves in a tight spot working "under a time crunch with her leaving the country.”

The News Tribune also reported that an unidentified man is suing the MultiCare Health System after he contracted Hepatitis C while he was being treated for kidney stones back in December. His lawsuit states that he “has to live with severe emotional and mental anguish.”

Electron micrographs of hepatitis C virus purified from cell culture. Scale bar is 50 nanometers. Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C, The Rockefeller University. (Wikimedia)
 
Electron micrographs of hepatitis C virus purified from cell culture. Scale bar is 50 nanometers. Courtesy of the Center for the Study of Hepatitis C, The Rockefeller University. (Wikimedia

Hepatitis C affects the liver upon the virus's entry into the host's body and is usually contracted through exposure to an infected individual's blood. According to MultiCare, the disease is usually transmitted from the sharing of needles.

The hospital also said that while many do not experience symptoms of the disease, others can suffer stomach aches, vomiting, yellow skin or eyes.