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Australia doctor charged over hepatitis cluster

28 may 2011, 10:40
Australian police on Friday charged a doctor with endangering life and recklessly causing serious injury over an outbreak of the blood-borne disease hepatitis C at a Melbourne clinic, AFP reports.

The 61-year-old medic faces 162 charges after a year-long investigation into allegations that a patients at medical centre were infected with the illness, which can develop into cirrhosis and liver cancer.

"The man has been charged with 54 charges each, of conduct endangering life, negligently cause serious injury and recklessly cause serious injury," Victoria police said in a statement.

Anaesthetist Dr James Latham Peters appeared briefly in Melbourne Magistrates' Court Friday but was released on bail on strict conditions, including that he not work in his profession, reports said.

Deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic granted bail but said Peters could not work in a medical capacity or contact any witnesses for the prosecution, The Age newspaper said.

Australian authorities began investigating a suspicious cluster of hepatitis C cases in early 2010, eventually finding that some 50 women who had the infection had been treated at the same Melbourne clinic between 2008 and 2009.

Victoria Police said that they were unable to comment on how the alleged infections took place, given that the matter was before the courts.

Police added Friday that said a number of women who were treated at the Croydon health facility between 2008 and 2009 were yet to be tested and urged them to contact the health department.

Some people can recover from hepatitis C without treatment, but in other cases medication is necessary.

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