Oklahoma Dentist Exposes 7,000 Patients to HIV, Hep C

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The Tulsa Health Department in Oklahoma is warning 7,000 patients at a local dental clinic that they were potentially exposed and could have contracted HIV as well as hepatitis B or hepatitis C from poor sterilization practices, according to ABC News.

An investigation by the Oklahoma dental board, the state bureau of narcotics and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency into oral surgeon Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington’s practice in Tulsa started when a patient became infected with HIV and hepatitis C. The patient was said to have no known risk factor for either infection other than receiving dental care.

The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise inspection of Harrington's practice on March 18, allegedly finding numerous problems, including regular use of a rusty set of instruments on patients with known infections, and the practice of pouring bleach on wounds until they "turned white."

Harrington and his staff told investigators that he treated a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients," according to a complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry.

The board also found during its inspection unlocked and unsupervised drug cabinets. Harrington had not kept inventory logs of his drugs, some of which were controlled substances. ABC News reports one drug vial found expired in 1993.

Joseph Perz, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told ABC News that it is "extremely rare" to see dental transmission of HIV and hepatitis B or C.

Even though 7,000 patients may have been exposed, and while dental transmission is not impossible, Perz did mention a dental fair three years ago in which hepatitis B was transmitted between patients. Ryan Dixon


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