Data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected identifies least 18 viral hepatitis outbreaks from 2001 through 2011 because of unsafe injection practices in ambulatory physician offices or surgical centers.

But the CDC, which collects the data from local and state health departments that it and other HHS agencies analyze, does not believe the known outbreaks represent all such instances, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency.

The CDC, however, has stopped requiring surveyors who examine ambulatory surgical centers to document the extent to which the centers follow safe injection policies, in part because of the burden surveyors had collecting the data. “Without the continued collection and analysis of injection safety data, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will lose its capacity to oversee how well surveyors monitor unsafe injection practices, and CDC will be unable to determine the extent of these practices,” the GAO report notes.

The GAO has recommended that collection of data on unsafe injection practices be resumed and the data used for continued monitoring, and CMS has agreed. The full report is available here.

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