Hep C spike prompts investigation into Kensington doctor
A Kensington doctor’s office has closed after its namesake doctor found herself at the center of an alleged spike in hepatitis C cases — and officials are urging her patients to get checked.
A letter from the department dated June 3, but which made its rounds on social media for the first time this month, strongly recommends that patients of Dr. Zhanna Tsukerman’s Ocean Parkway office be tested for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV as soon as possible.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene confirmed to the Brooklyn Eagle Tuesday that the letter is legitimate, and that its office is investigating several acute hep-C cases linked to the private practice.
“The department has sent letters to potentially exposed patients in English and Russian to their homes in early June,” an agency spokesperson said in an email. “We are urging any patients of Dr. Zhanna Tsukerman who received any procedure that involved needles or sharp instruments from 2015 to 2019, to get tested immediately for hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.”
Doctors and hospitals in New York City are required to report cases of certain communicable diseases, including hep-C, to the Health Department. An agency rep explained that, in the course of looking at new cases, investigators noticed a link between some outbreaks and the Brooklyn office, which led to further examination and then the prompt notification of patients.
The Health Department collected billing information from the last four years, and has since contacted just under 3,000 of Tsukerman’s current and former patients.
The spokesperson said that any patient who received injections, infusions, venipuncture, blood glucose testing or similar treatments at the Brooklyn office may be at risk.
Tracking illnesses and conducting investigations of this kind is standard practice for the Health Department’s disease surveillance team, the spokesperson added, noting also that the agency is doing the same kind of “‘disease detective’ work” to track measles exposures during the current outbreak.
However, a hep-C exposure of this magnitude hasn’t been seen in quite some time.
More than 2,000 patients were urged to get checked in 2001, after eight people tested positive for the disease out of a gastroenterologist’s office in Bay Ridge.
According to the Health Department, hepatitis C is caused by a virus that can permanently damage the liver, leading to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. It is passed from one person to another through blood.
Most people who have hep-C don’t show symptoms, but it can still cause harm if left untreated.
By order of the NYC Commissioner of Health, Tsukerman — who has since closed the 514 Ocean Parkway practice voluntarily — is not allowed to perform any invasive procedures — such as giving injections, administering infusions and drawing blood for testing — until the Health Department is satisfied that they can be done safely.
The agency has no further information on the investigation, or on Tsukerman’s future plans.
According to a profile on health.usnews.com, Tsukerman has been practicing for more than two decades, and specializes in internal medicine. She has high ratings and positive reviews across websites like Vitals, ZocDoc and WebMD.
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