The North Dakota Outbreak: The Daughters of a Victim Speak Out, Call for Action

May 5, 2014

Evelyn McKnight and Lauren Lollini

Tam Black and Jan Laudenschlager tell the heartbreaking story of how their father was infected with  Hepatitis C while a resident at a long-term care facility in North Dakota.

Tam Black & Jan Laudenschlager are advocates for their dad in the North Dakota outbreak

Tam Black & Jan Laudenschlager are advocates for their dad in the North Dakota outbreak

Our Dad is one of the 44 victims of the Hepatitis C outbreak in North Dakota. The outbreak occurred at ManorCare, a long-term care/rehab facility in Minot. Dad spent six days at ManorCare in November of 2012 for physical therapy following a minor stroke. During his short stay, he had two blood draws and a tuberculosis test. After he returned home, he never got back the energy and strength levels he had prior to the stroke. We now attribute this to the Hepatitis C infection he caught just days after his stroke.

In July of 2013, he tested positive for Hepatitis C. It was a complete shock, and it still hasn’t really sunk in. The stigma of the infection was hard for both of our parents. They didn’t want anyone to know and were worried about having anyone over to their home, especially their grandchildren. We can’t begin to imagine the stress our Dad was living with then and now, not knowing what is to come.

The State Health Department was in charge of investigating the outbreak, and we waited patiently for their findings. In December of 2013, they concluded that the exact method of transmission was not identifiable and suggested that it could be associated with phlebotomy, podiatry, or nail care. We found this unacceptable!

One night, Jan was searching the internet for information on Hepatitis C and came across the HONOReform website. She emailed a short message explaining the situation and within 20 minutes received a phone call from Steve Langan.

No one in our community was paying attention to what happened at ManorCare, so with guidance from HONOReform, we decided to let the public know about the outbreak. It took great courage for both of our parents to let us take their story to the media in hopes of getting some answers. With Steve and Evelyn’s help, we were able to get our local news to televise a series of short features about the outbreak.

We wish Dad could start the oral medications he needs to combat the infection, hoping that it would help with his fatigue and weakness. He was denied coverage of the medications by the Veterans Administration and cannot afford them otherwise. For the 12-week regime of two pills a day, the cost is $160,000.

Mom and Dad are still taking things day-by-day. A support group for the victims and their family members has slowly been forming, which will hopefully make the task ahead easier – because we will continue to fight for answers. Our parents, along with other victims and their families, are owed at least that much.

Simply put, these 44 victims deserve an explanation. They should not be forgotten.

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