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7000 Dental Patients at Risk for HIV and Hepatitis

Tulsa, OK: Nearly 7,000 patients who were treated at a dentist' clinic in suburban Tulsa, may have been exposed to HIV and hepatitis, according to health investigators. A state investigation began after the health department alerted the dentistry board to a potential hepatitis C infection from Dr. W. Scott Harrington's office.

CNN reported that conditions at Harrington' dental practice left investigators nearly speechless. "I will tell you that when ... we left, we were just physically kind of sick," Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry told "I mean, that's how bad (it was), and I've seen a lot of bad stuff over the years."

It also appears that dental assistants were allowed to do techniques they should only have been assisting with and that Harrington also allowed "unauthorized, unlicensed" employees to perform intravenous sedation of patients, which is illegal in Oklahoma.

An official complaint filed before the state dental board described the violations, including "multiple sterilization issues, multiple cross-contamination issues, (and) the drug cabinet was unlocked and unattended."

The Oklahoma state health department is contacting about 7,000 patients seen by Harrington since 2007 to urge them to be tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, and that testing will reportedly be offered free of charge.

Harrington is accused of 17 violations, including negligence and "being a menace to the public health." According to the health department, infection in a setting such as a dentist's office is rare, however the patients should be tested as a precaution."Hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are serious medical conditions, and infected patients may not have outward symptoms of the disease for many years," the department told CNN. Harrington is a 64-year old veteran oral surgeon who began his practice over 35 years ago. His clinic is located the Tulsa suburb of Owasso.

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