HIV/Aids

Updated 09 April 2013

1 200 US dental patients screened for HIV

About 1 200 patients have been screened for exposure to HIV and hepatitis in Oklahoma after authorities found a Tulsa dentist using improper sterilisation procedures and rusty surgical tools.

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About 1 200 patients have been screened for exposure to HIV and hepatitis in Oklahoma after authorities found a Tulsa dentist using improper sterilisation procedures and rusty surgical tools, a public health official said.

More than 6 000 patients have yet to be tested and officials have not located all the exposed patients, said Kaitlin Snider, spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department.

Testing is free and patients should get results in two weeks. Dr Scott Harrington practiced in Tulsa for 35 years before he surrendered his license.

Harrington's oral surgery came under scrutiny last month after one of his patients tested positive for Hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.

After concluding the patient had no typical risk factors, state investigators visited Harrington's office and found multiple health and safety violations that created cross-contamination and sterilisation risks, according the administrative complaint filed against him by the state dentistry board.

Harrington's attorney was not immediately available to comment.

Rusty instruments

Drug vials and needles were used multiple times on different patients and instruments set aside for disease carriers appeared to be rusty, according to the complaint.

Harrington's practice served a large number of infectious disease carriers, according to the complaint against him.

Harrington, who delegated many of his duties to two assistants, is accused of 17 violations of Oklahoma dental regulations, including eight counts of "being a menace to the public health" by practicing unsafe and unsanitary dentistry.

The harshest sanction the dental board can levy is revocation of his license.

The Tulsa County District Attorney's office has not said whether it will file criminal charges against Harrington.

 

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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