|(QMI Agency files)
Hundreds of University of Prince Edward Island students are being urged to undergo HIV and hepatitis testing after sharing blood glucose testing devices during biology and human physiology classes.
Almost 300 nursing and foods and nutrition students who took the classes from 2010 through this year were sent a letter from the university last Friday warning they could be at a low risk of transmission from the finger-pricking device.
About two-thirds of the 295 students and eight lab assistants have been reached so far, the university said Wednesday. The university was also trying to reach students by phone and e-mail.
Roughly half of the students who took the classes used the spring-loaded device that contained a needle and a receptacle to test their blood.
While the needle was changed between students, the receptacle while cleaned was not changed, the university said.
"I wish to express my regret that this situation has occurred," dean of science Christian Lacroix said in a statement.
"The health and safety of our students is paramount and I assure you that all steps are being taken to review procedures and protocols."
A lab instructor raised concerns with university officials after seeing media reports earlier this month about 80 students at Winnipeg's Southeast Collegiate who underwent HIV and hepatitis testing after using a similar single-use device during a talk on diabetes. In those cases too, the needle was changed but not the receptacle.
The Winnipeg Health Authority tested the students for blood-borne diseases. Students received the test results which were not made public.
The risk of transmission of HIV and hepatitis B is one case in one million people while it's five cases per million for hepatitis C, according to Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer.
UPEI is enclosing a testing requisition form with its notification letters that students can take to their family physician or to a lab. Test results will be sent to Morrison's office, which will contact the students directly.
A toll-free number (1-877-628-8833) staffed by School of Nursing faculty has been set up for students who want more information or they can go to www.upei.ca/moreinfo.