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Allina Health has notified 161 patients that they might have been exposed to blood-borne infections due to a nurse practitioner reusing syringes at a dermatology clinic in St. Paul.

Patients received calls over the past two weeks advising them to seek testing for pathogens such as hepatitis C and HIV, which could have been passed from an infected patient to another via a reused syringe at the clinic.

“While the risk of infection is very low, we understand that this is upsetting and concerning to these patients and families,” Allina said in a statement. “We will learn from this incident and are taking action consistent with our commitment to patient safety.”

Liz Lightfoot was shocked to learn that an unsafe injection practice had been used last November when she received an anesthetic at the Allina clinic for a mole removal.

The social work professor at the University of Minnesota underwent blood tests Monday, which showed no trace of infection. But she will need to be checked again in the next few months to make sure hepatitis doesn’t emerge.

“This isn’t something that should be happening,” said Lightfoot, who had seen the nurse practitioner many times before and even referred her to friends. “This is modern medical care.”

The nurse practitioner, who no longer works at the clinic, had been replacing used needles but sometimes reusing single-dose syringes, according to the Allina statement.

The practice violated Allina protocol and drew concerns from other health care practitioners who reported it. It had been taking place since October 2017.

While unsafe injection practices have more commonly caused outbreaks in developing nations, they remain an issue in the United States.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 60 hepatitis outbreaks since 2008 related to poor health care facility practices — including the reuse of syringes or finger-prick devices.

Syringe reuse at a Nevada endoscopy clinic in 2007 prompted one of the nation’s largest infectious disease investigations, including recommendations for 60,000 patients to be tested and the discovery that eight had been infected with hepatitis C.

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744