Tag Archives: hepatitis

Eight-part series on hepatitis C finds unique moment in an epidemic

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Kristin Espeland Gourlay

Kristin Espeland Gourlay

While working on a documentary about opioid addiction, Kristin Espeland Gourlay, the health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio, discovered there was another story waiting to be covered: hepatitis C.

She writes that new drugs had hit the market with reported cure rates of 95 percent or more, but they cost upwards of $90,000 for a full course. She found that the arrival of these new drugs coincides with another trend: Millions of baby boomers who contracted the disease decades ago are just now showing up in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, sick with something most didn’t know they had.

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ

Add to that a wave of new infections, spreading among younger injection drug users – people who got hooked on opioids and then turned to heroin – and she found that it was a unique moment in the history of an epidemic.

In this AHCJ article, she shares what she learned, what sources she used, as well as a list of potential story ideas. As she points out, this epidemic will impact many lives but also state budgets.

Read how she did her reporting and what she learned.

Hepatitis cases highlight infection control for temporary dental clinics

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image by Neon Tommy via flickr
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It is likely that three patients and two volunteers contracted hepatitis B at a large free dental clinic held in 2009 in Berkeley County, W.V., according to investigators.

Investigators documented problems with infection control at the large Mission of Mercy clinic, held at a school gymnasium. But they were unable to definitively link those breaches with the five infections, or to determine exactly how the patients and volunteers were infected. They have shared their conclusions in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The news of the cluster of hepatitis B infections among attendees at the West Virginia clinic attracted wide attention in 2010, after health officials sent out letters notifying hundreds of clinic patients and volunteers that they might have been exposed. The highly infectious hepatitis B virus can lead to serious liver damage. Continue reading

Tulsa health officials link hepatitis C case to oral surgeon’s office

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

CDC/ Amanda Mills

A former patient of Tulsa oral surgeon W. Scott Harrington contracted hepatitis C at his office, genetic testing has confirmed.

The case is the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of the hepatitis C virus associated with a dental setting in the United States, according to Oklahoma state and local health officials.

Tulsa World reporter Shannon Muchmore, who has been following the story since last spring, filed a Sept 19 story on the latest developments.

Back in March, health officials started working to test thousands of the oral surgeon’s former patients for hepatitis and HIV after an office inspection turned up lax sanitation practices and other violations of the state’s Dental Act.

Since then, more than 4,200 people have been tested at free clinics. While a total of 89 have tested positive for hepatitis C, five for hepatitis B and four for HIV, health officials have stressed that those results would be typical for a random sampling of the population. Genetic testing has been necessary to trace any of the illnesses back to Harrington’s practice. Continue reading

Tulsa reporter shares lessons from ongoing coverage of dentist

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Shannon Muchmore

Shannon Muchmore

As many of you know, it can be hard following an ongoing story – keeping up with the latest developments, looking ahead and staying ahead of the competition, finding the larger stories and putting it all into context.

Shannon Muchmore of The Tulsa World has been doing just that since the end of March, reporting on an investigation into a dentist whose clinics have been cited for multiple violations, many related to unsanitary practices. Hundreds of patients are being tested for HIV and hepatitis and officials say as many as 7,000 patients may have been exposed since 2007.

Amid a steady stream of stories, she took the time to share some of her insights into the complexities of the unfolding drama, including how her daily work life has changed, the level of risk faced by patients and some tips for other reporters.

Coverage of Tulsa dental clinics’ violations has been cautious

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Health officials in Oklahoma are working to test patients of two dental clinics for hepatitis and HIV, after an inspection turned up lax sanitation practices and other violations of the state’s Dental Act.

Shannon Muchmore

Shannon Muchmore

Shannon Muchmore of The Tulsa World has been covering the story, which has gone on to get worldwide coverage, with a steady stream of stories for the past month.

While getting out the latest news, offering descriptions of the lines of people waiting to get tested and exploring the fears of some of the 7,000 patients who state officials say may have been exposed – including one man who believes he contracted HIV while getting a tooth extracted at one of the clinics – Muchmore also has been careful to sound a cautionary note about the intricacies of tracing the bloodborne diseases back to their source. Continue reading

Reporter shares lessons from writing first-person medical stories

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Late last year, the Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor ran a series of stories in which reporter Meg Heckman used her own struggles with hepatitis C as a lens through which to examine the nation’s epidemic. Now, she’s shared the lessons she learned during her effort as both reporter and source in a Poynter article. If you’re not familiar with the story, I recommend taking three minutes to review the the video piece that accompanied the story. The final 90 seconds, in particular, really get to the heart of Heckman’s internal conflict.

The lessons Heckman took from the experience include the vulnerability of becoming a news source, the importance of structuring your story both for web and print, and the ins and outs of researching (and then exposing) your own personal and medical life.