The HSE has confirmed that a surgeon who worked at hospitals in Galway, Mayo and Donegal has been diagnosed with the virus and they have reviewed over 800,000 procedures at the hospital in a period from 2004 to 2008.
Dr Breda Smyth, HSE public health specialist, said the review of patients was undertaken when it was discovered that the surgeon had contracted hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a virus that can affect the liver. And Dr Smyth said that after reviewing over 800,000 files, HSE West is contacting 457 patients and asking them to attend precautionary hepatitis C screening.
Letters will be sent today to all 457 patients and those who will need to go for blood tests will find out by Monday.
The surgeon involved worked at Galway University Hospitals, Mayo General Hospital and Letterkenny General Hospital between 2004 and 2008.
Dr Smyth said the risk to patients is considered to be very low, but screening is regarded as good practice and will reassure patients of their own safety.
Dr Smyth said a single blood test is being offered to these patients to rule out infection.
This may be carried out by their GP or at a dedicated HSE West clinic.
Dr Smyth said results will be returned to patients and their GPs as quickly as possible but no later than seven days after the test.
“This is a very fast timeframe and additional resources have been put in place to enable this.
“If you do not receive one of these letters inviting you for a blood test you have not been identified as being in need of screening,” she said.