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Dental patients test positive for Hepatitis, HIV

The Oklahoma State Department of Health and Tulsa Health Department have released disturbing first-round test results of patients who visited a Tulsa oral surgeon, Dr. W. Scott Harrington, and may have been infected with deadly viruses.

Of the 3,235 people who have visited county health departments throughout the state to have their blood tested, 57 people have tested positive for Hepatitis C, three tested positive for Hepatitis B, and less than three tested positive for HIV.

Dr. Harrington’s practice is accused of allowing untrained assistants perform IV sedation and use unsanitary equipment.

Dr. Kristy Bradley, the State Epidemiologist, said similar accusations at other medical offices have involved the repeated use of a syringe, even after it’s used on an infected patient.

“Their blood gets into that syringe that’s then used to push back into the medication,” she said. “Then that vial is contaminated with that blood. Then the next patient who receives that medication, they’re receiving contaminated medication.”

Bradley said more than 5,000 former patients of Dr. Harrington will have to be tested.

The next phase will include more in-depth interviews with people who tested positive to determine the likelihood their infection was connected to Harrington’s practice.

While these early results may seem outrageous, Dr. Bradley said they can’t connect these virus to Dr. Harrington just yet because less than 2% of the results were positive.

She said 1.7% of the general population also has hepatitis.

“We really need to delve into it further and determine what association there is between these infections and the risk from the dental surgical practice.”

The State Health Department’s patient roster goes back to 2007.

Former patients who visited Dr. Harrington before 2007 are also urged to get tested.

Dr. Harrington closed his practice last month after the investigation began.

He faces a State Dental Board hearing in August.

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