Dentist may have exposed 7,000 patients to HIV, hepatitis

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by Alice Kleinpeter

Video report by Yetta Gibson

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 29 at 7:07 PM

TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Health Department and Oklahoma State Department of Health are notifying patients who may have been exposed to HIV as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C by a Tulsa dentist.

Health officials say Dr. W. Scott Harrington, D.M.D. may have exposed dental patients to these potentially fatal diseases in the last six years because he used improper sterilization techniques.

The investigation of Dr. Harrington’s practice has revealed numerous violations of health and safety laws and major violations of the State Dental Act, according to the Oklahoma State Board of Dentistry.

“The magnitude of these infractions in clinical practices and the unknown length of time that the practices may have occurred have prompted public health to begin systematic notification of Dr. Harrington’s patients and recommend testing for HIV, hepatitis b and hepatitis c viruses,” said Dr. Kristy Bradley of the Oklahoma Department of Health, who adds, “as many person who may be infected with these blood-borne viruses may be infected for years without experiencing any signs of illness.”

So far, health officials believe at least one patient was infected with hepatitis C from treatments in Dr. Harrington’s office.

Tulsa Health Officials say sanitation conditions were horrifying inside the oral and facial surgery building where Dr. Scott Harrington works.

“I will tell you that when the health department investigators and we left we were just physically kind of sick,” said Susan Rogers, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. “And I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff over the years.”

The dental tools inspected in the office where Dr. Harrington practices “were horrible,” according to Rogers.

“I wouldn’t let my nephews play with them out in the dirt,” she said.
 
According to the Tulsa Health Department, the dentist and dental office voluntarily stopped practicing when the investigation started and Dr. Harrington is cooperating with investigators through his attorney.

Patients are now receiving letters urging them to get tested, but the Tulsa Health Department noted that information was only available from the past seven years so patients who were seen by Dr. Harrington before 2007 may not receive a letter.

The patients who receive the letters will be tested free of charge. For more information about this notification or these fatal diseases a hotline has been set up at 918-595-4500. More information can also be found on Oklahoma's website.
 

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