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Dentist may have exposed patients to HIV

March 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM

TULSA, Okla., March 29 (UPI) -- About 7,000 patients of a Tulsa, Okla., dentist were warned they may have contracted HIV or hepatitis from poor sterilization practices, health officials said.

State and federal agencies are investigating Dr. Wayne Harrington, an oral surgeon, because one of his patients tested positive for hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and didn't have known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment, ABC News reported.

Harrington stopped practicing voluntarily when the investigation began, CNN reported.

"The dentist is cooperating with investigators through his attorney," the Tulsa Health Department said.

A State Board of Dentistry investigation said there were "numerous violations of health and safety laws and major violations of the State Dental Act," the health department said.

The department said the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were assisting in the "multifaceted and ongoing" investigation.

When it learned of the infected patient, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry inspected Harrington's practice March 18 and reportedly found many problems, including regular use of rusty instruments on patients with known infections, ABC News reported.

A complaint filed by the dentistry board indicated Harrington and his staff told investigators he treated a "high population of known infectious disease carrier patients" and allegedly allowed unlicensed dental assistants to administer medication.

The complaint said drug cabinets were unlocked and unsupervised during the day and inventory logs weren't kept.

Harrington also allegedly reused needles, contaminating drugs with potentially dangerous bacteria and trace amounts of other drugs, the complaint said.

Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist Joseph Perz told ABC News it is "extremely rare" to see dental transmission of HIV and hepatitis B or C.

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