Lawmakers broadcast outbreak advice

WASHINGTON -- Nevada lawmakers are taking to the airwaves in a show of concern about the hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday distributed a public service announcement to television and radio stations in the state. The 30-second spot was taped with Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Jon Porter, both Republicans, are collaborating on an announcement that will be produced and distributed later this week, Ensign spokesman Tory Mazzola said.

The flurry of on-air activity comes as lawmakers strive for a role in responding to worries about the spread of disease traceable to the unsafe practices documented at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada.

More than 40,000 patients were advised to get tested for hepatitis B and C, and HIV, after investigators focused on the clinic's practice of reusing syringes to administer anesthesia to patients, and to share single-use vials of medication among several patients.

In the television spot, Gerberding sits beside Reid, who says he and Ensign are working "to make sure the health care crisis ... never happens again."

Gerberding advises, "Health care is still safe so don't let this hepatitis situation scare you from getting the care you need or from following your doctor's advice."

Carla Rea, community affairs director for KVBC-TV, Channel 3 in Las Vegas, said the spot was put into a rotation on Monday and will be shown two to four times a day given the local interest in the topic.

"We try to keep them pertinent to the news," Rea said. "This is one we will be running."

Mazzola said the script for the Ensign/Porter announcement likely will include mention that Ensign turned 50 last month, the age when doctors recommend scheduled colonoscopies to track for cancer.

Ensign has said he was scheduled to have his first colonoscopy weeks ago, before the clinic scandal was revealed, but canceled the appointment because of a schedule conflict.

The senator plans to reschedule the procedure "in the next couple of months," Mazzola said.