April 19, 2013
The Tulsa Health Department announced that approximately 60 former patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington's dental clinics tested positive for hepatitis or HIV. Harrington was criticized by the state dental board for poor sterilization practices. More than 7,000 patients of his Tulsa and Owasso clinics were sent letters in March notifying them of the risk of infection and advising them how to get free blood testing. Of 3,122 persons tested by county health departments, 57 tested positive for hepatitis C, three for hepatitis B, and one for HIV.
The Tulsa and Oklahoma Health Departments are in the process of informing patients of the results. Health officials will personally contact those who tested positive, provide counseling about the disease, and direct them to appropriate resources for treatment. Testing may also be recommended for their spouses or partners. Dr. Kristy Bradley, an epidemiologist, noted that the source of the infections is under investigation. She explained that the next phase will include more interviews of persons who tested positive to determine the likelihood that their exposure is associated with their dental procedure at the practice.
A surprise inspection of Harrington's practice on March 18 was prompted by a patient's positive test for HIV and hepatitis The complaint filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry stated that the dentist was using old needles and rusty instruments, and poured bleach on patients' wounds until they turned white. Also, instruments used for patients who had an infectious disease were given an extra dip in bleach in addition to normal cleaning methods. However, the tools had rust spots, indicating that they were porous and could not be properly sterilized. Harrington had been practicing for more than 30 years. He voluntarily gave up his dental license and may face criminal charges.
The Tulsa Health Department has established a hotline at (918) 595-4500 for people with questions.