Health Department: Possibly 7,000 Patients Exposed To HIV, Hepatitis
Thousands of patients could have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis by a Tulsa County dentist, authorities said.The Tulsa Health Department announced at a press conference this afternoon that a Tulsa dentist could have potentially exposed 7,000 patients to HIV and Hepatitis B and C.About the InvestigationAuthorities identified the dentist as Scott Harrington and said he has voluntarily ceased practicing as a result of their investigation.Officials said the State Board of Dentistry so far has found numerous violations of health and safety laws and major violations of the State Dental Act.Read the full report on the case against Dr. Harrington hereIn addition to the Dental Board agents from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration have joined the investigation to look into the maintenance, control and use of drugs at the office.Complaint Says Dentist Used Expired Drugs and Rusty InstrumentsThe Dentistry Board complaint says Harrington and his staff told investigators that a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients" received dental care from him.A device used to sterilize all instruments wasn't working properly, the complaint said. A test is supposed to performed monthly and sent to a lab to determine that the equipment is successfully sterilizing instruments, but "no such test had ever been performed in the 6 years one dental assistant had been working at the office," the complaint said.The doctor also apparently used outdated drugs, as one vial found this year had an expiration date of 1993, the complaint said.Who Could Be AffectedThe health department is beginning the process of notifying patients who should be tested for the blood-borne illness.Patients at Risk of HIV, Hepatitis; Dental Patient Speaks OutPatients who had procedures at Dr. Harrington's dental practice, located at 2111 S. Atlanta Place in Tulsa or at 12806 E. 86th Place N. in Owasso will begin to receive letters in the mail.Is My Dentist's Office Dangerous?Officials say spreading these types of diseases at dentist offices is extremely rare.Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor, discussed the case on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer."With the millions of people who see the dentist every year, there's only been a handful of infections over the past 20 years," he said.Besser recommended asking your dentist what he or she does to prevent infection. Additionally, Besser cautioned patients to be leery of dentists who use rusty instruments or do not put on a new pair of gloves each time they examine a patient.What to Do If You're One of the PatientsOfficials recommend patients be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, according to the Health Department.All testing will be done free of charge at the Tulsa Health Department's North Regional Health and Wellness Center, 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.Services will be provided on a walk-in basis starting on Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and will resume on Monday, April 1 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.In addition, the health department has set up a hotline at (918) 595-4500 for people with questions about this notification or hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV.Patient information was only available from the past seven years. Patients who were seen by Harrington prior to 2007 may not receive a letter, officials said.The Associated Press Contributed to this report.