updated 6/16/2004 8:53:24 AM ET 2004-06-16T12:53:24

A hospital notified 177 patients that they may have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis because equipment used to check their digestive systems might not have been properly cleaned.

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North Shore University Hospital spokesman Terry Lynam said doctors believed the risk of transmission was “minuscule” and that the letters were a precautionary measure.

Of the 177 people sent letters last week, 86 have already undergone tests and none have tested positive for either virus, the hospital said. All of them are supposed to be retested in six months.

Worker fired
The hospital said it did not have records that medical instruments used for upper endoscopies or colonoscopies were properly disinfected for procedures performed from April 28 to May 10.

Workers apparently failed to test disinfectant levels in the water used in a cleaning machine, the hospital said. One of the workers was fired and a second has been suspended without pay, it said.

The procedures involve inserting a flexible tube through the patient’s mouth or rectum to check the upper or lower digestive system for abnormalities.

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