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Thousands of Dental Patients in Oklahoma Could Have Been Infected with HIV, Hepatitis

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Health officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma are warning 7000 dental patients who have visited one local dental office that they could have contracted HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C because of poor sterilization practices. Officials urged patients of oral surgeon Wayne Harrington, DMD, to get tested.

The state dental board, the state bureau of narcotics, and the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency are investigating Harrington because one of his patients recently had positive test results for hepatitis C and HIV without known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment.

The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise inspection of Harrington’s practice on March 18 and reported 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 allegedly allowed unlicensed dental assistants to administer medication, according to the complaint. These assistants had to decide which medications to administer and the dosages. Harrington kept no inventory log of drugs.

Harrington allegedly reused needles, contaminating drugs with potentially harmful bacteria and trace amounts of other drugs, according to the complaint. Although patient-specific drug records indicated that the office was using morphine in 2012, no morphine had been ordered since 2009.

The Tulsa Health Department said Harrington's patients will receive letters by mail notifying them of the risk and steps to obtain free-of-charge testing.

For questions, call the Tulsa Health Department at (918) 595-4500.

Sources: Associated Press; ABC World News. 

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