Twelve patients at a German Hospital have so far been found to have hepatitis C after undergoing surgery involving an anesthetist, who is infected with the disease.

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The practitioner, who no longer works at the Donau-Ries Clinic in the southern German town of Donauwoerth, infected the individuals during surgery, a local health authority said on Monday.

Prosecutors have opened investigations against the anaesthetist. He was addicted to medication, according to the health body.

Given that hepatitis C is normally transmitted through blood contact, it is unclear how patients became infected.

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Several hundred of the clinic’s former patients have been called to get tested for the disease. Hepatitis C is usually symptomless, or can cause flu-like symptoms.

It can become chronic, causing tiredness or upper abdominal discomfort.

It can also lead to cirrhosis, which increases the risk of cancer.

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