The hepatitis C outbreak at two Northern Utah hospitals, attributed to a nurse accused of diverting drugs and infecting at least 7 patients, has spurred the state to increase monitoring of health care professionals.

The Utah Department of Health has begun working more closely with licensing authorities “to understand when a provider is potentially exposing patients to blood-borne pathogens due to risky behaviors,” said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist.

Elet Neilson, 50, was charged in U.S. District Court on Wednesday with 24 felonies involving the alleged theft of narcotic medications and tampering with prescribed drugs. Her actions led to the infection of at least seven patients at McKay-Dee Hospital while she worked as a registered nurse in the emergency room, the grand jury indictment alleged.

Because of Neilson’s contacts with patients at McKay Dee in Ogden and earlier at Layton’s Davis Hospital, more than 7,200 patients were potentially exposed, the state said. Sixteen patients tested positive for hepatitis C. Seven of those cases were tied to the outbreak.

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