A Washington nurse accused of infecting at least two patients with hepatitis C was arrested last week.
Cora Weberg, 31, could face second-degree assault charges as prosecutors claim she stole injectable drugs from Puyallup's Good Samaritan Hospital, where she worked, and knowingly infected patients with hepatitis C, The News Tribune reported.
“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.
The hospital system said it informed two patients treated in December 2017 by the nurse that they were infected with the disease while at the hospital. MultiCare Health System encouraged people who visited the emergency room between August 2017 and March 2018 to be tested.
Puyallup police said Weberg, who has hepatitis C, “intentionally contaminated medicine or another substance with her own blood.” However, Good Samaritan Hospital workers previously said Weberg was “surprised” to learn she had the virus after she took a test in March, according to The News Tribune.
Weberg’s attorney, Bryan Hershman, said there is no connection between the outbreak and the nurse.
“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?”
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has established a link between the viruses both patients contracted while at the hospital, The News Tribune reported. However, health investigators were unable to conclusively find a genetic link between Weberg and the patients.
Weberg also reportedly said her exposure to hepatitis C was not strong enough for her to be able to infect other people.
Weberg was arrested at the Canadian border as she was embarking on a planned vacation to Guam with her boyfriend, police said.
Police spokesman Ryan Portman told KCPQ investigators “would have liked to have developed some more evidence” before arresting her, but “were working under a time crunch with her leaving the country.”
An unidentified man is suing MultiCare Health System after he contracted hepatitis C while being treated in December for kidney stones, according to The News Tribune. The suit says he now “has to live with severe emotional and mental anguish.”
According to MultiCare, hepatitis C affects the liver when the virus enters a person’s system, usually through exposure to an infected person’s blood. It is typically transmitted through the sharing of needles, according to the hospital.
Although most people do not experience symptoms, they can include vomiting, stomach aches or yellow skin or eyes, the hospital said.
MultiCare promised to provide free treatment to anyone who was infected while receiving care at its hospital. With treatment, an infected person should be cured of hepatitis C, the hospital said.
Puyallup, Washington is about 30 miles south of Seattle.