Health officials: Patient infected with hepatitis C at dentist

Sept. 18, 2013 at 5:04 PM
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TULSA, Okla., Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Oklahoma health officials say they have found the first documented case of "patient-to-patient transmission" of the hepatitis C virus at a dentist's office.

Both were patients of Dr. Scott Harrington, who practiced in Tulsa and Owasso, the Tulsa World reported Wednesday.

More than 4,000 of Harrington's former patients have been tested for viral diseases carried by blood. Health officials say 89 were found to be infected with hepatitis C, five with hepatitis B and four with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Given the size of the group, the infections may have been picked up elsewhere. Dr. Kristy Bradley, a state epidemiologist, said researchers have confirmed at least one patient was infected at Harrington's office.

"This is the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus associated with a dental setting in the United States," Bradley said in a release from the Tulsa Health Department. "While dental procedures are generally safe, this reinforces the importance of adhering to strict infection control procedures in dental settings."

Tulsa District Attorney Tim Harris said Harrington is unlikely to face charges because prosecutors would have to prove he knowingly put patients at risk of infection.

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