Dozens of Oklahoma Dental Patients Tested Positive for Hepatitis C or HIV
At least 60 patients treated by an Oklahoma dentist, who was labeled a “menace to public health,” have tested positive for either Hepatitis C or HIV, Tulsa health officials say.
The first round of test results on patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington were reported in a situation update released by the Tulsa Health Department (THD) and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) on April 18.
According to the report, 57 individuals have tested positive for Hepatitis C, and three have tested positive for Hepatitis B. Either one or two patients have tested positive for HIV, but the health department will not release the number since it is less than three.
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Last month the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry charged Dr. Harrington with 17 health and safety violations and shut down his dental practice, following a surprise inspection on March 18.
Investigators reported rusted surgical instruments that could not be properly cleaned, the re-use of needles, unlicensed assistants practicing oral surgery and drugs in stock that had expired as long ago as 1993.
Dr. Harrington goes before the dentistry board today for a formal hearing. He could also face criminal charges.
Former patients of Dr. Harrington were tested after a March 28 warning, which indicated that 7,000 patients treated throughout the years may be in danger of having contracted a blood-borne virus due to the unsanitary conditions in his dentistry practice. As of the update, 3,235 patients have been tested at county health departments, and an unknown number have been tested privately.
State health officials note that the results do not mean that all of the infections occurred due to the actions of Dr. Harrington or his staff.
“We understand these first reported test results may be of concern,” said THD Director Dr. Bruce Dart in the situation update. “Thorough investigations are routinely conducted upon notification of a positive report for these infections.”
THD and OSDH are in the process of contacting individuals who were tested for blood-borne viruses and notifying them of results. Health officials are making counseling available for patients who have tested positive for disease and directing them toward health care resources.
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