Testing Center Voices Concern Over Dental Patients' Hepatitis C Risk

A testing clinic said it believes dental patients of Dr. Scott Harrington could be at greater risk of Hepatitis C than HIV. They continue to encourage these patients to get tested at the Tulsa Health Department.

H.O.P.E. (Health Outreach Prevention Education) Clinic Specialist Jeremy Simmons said the clinic has seen a surge in callers this past week, given the recent news that 7,000 of Dr. Scott Harrington's oral surgery patients could possibly have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

"I really want to let everybody know that I'd be surprised if anyone gets HIV from this scenario," said Simmons. He said HIV dies very quickly outside of the body and would not last very long on tools. However, he said Hepatitis C is more likely to be transmitted in a medical setting.

Simmons said it can take HIV three months after exposure to appear on a test. It can take six months after exposure for Hepatitis C to appear on a test. That is why he is encouraging patients who have visited Dr. Harrington very recently to be make sure they are tested after the appropriate amount of time has passed.

Simmons said the tests are looking for antibodies, the white blood cells that would fight off the virus. He said those tests take about a week, but he expects the Health Department is estimating two to three weeks for results, given the large number of people getting tested.

The Health Department reported that as of 4 p.m., 192 patients had been tested Wednesday. That brings the total to more than 1,400 since Saturday.

Dr. Harrington's attorney, James K. Secrest, II, released a statement Wednesday, saying: "For almost 35 years, Dr. Harrington has provided Oklahomans with dedicated oral surgical care. His previous record with the dental board is impeccable. He is taking the recent allegations very seriously and is fully cooperating with the Oklahoma Dental Board. At this time, out of respect for his patients and the sensitivity of the issues, Dr. Harrington will make no further comment on this matter."