60 Hepatitis Cases Confirmed Among Tulsa Dentist's Patients

The Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Tulsa Health Department announced the first round of results April 18 from testing completed on 3,122 people who had been patients of W. Scott Harrington's dental surgical practice.

Completed laboratory tests on 3,122 people who were treated at W. Scott Harrington's dental surgical practice have identified 57 individuals who tested positive for hepatitis C and three individuals who tested positive for hepatitis B, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Tulsa Health Department announced April 18. "Positive results have been reported for HIV, but OSDH Data Security Policy regarding HIV disclosure prohibits public reporting of numbers less than 3," the two agencies stated in a statement posted that day.

This confirmation came after the first round of results from the testing. On March 28, public health officials announced they were notifying current and former patients of the practice that they may have been exposed to bloodborne viruses at Harrington's Tulsa and Owasso offices and urged them to be tested. The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Public Health Laboratory completed the testing for 3,122 people; 3,235 people as of April 18 had visited county health departments to have blood drawn for testing and an unknown number of others have sought testing through private health care providers, the statement says. It says based on current Oklahoma disease prevalence data for hepatitis B and C and HIV, health officials know some of the positives probably resulted from infection exposure not related to the Harrington practice. The most recent data available indicates an estimated 4,944 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma and as many as 68,000 Oklahomans may be infected with hepatitis C.

"We understand these first reported test results may be of concern," said THD Director Dr. Bruce Dart. "Thorough investigations are routinely conducted upon notification of a positive report for these infections. This response will be handled in the same manner, as disease investigation is a core public health service and staff are well trained to conduct this type of response."

The departments are notifying people who participated in the screening of their test results; those with positive tests are being personally contacted and counseled and will be directed to resources for appropriate care and follow-up. If warranted, testing will be recommended for a spouse or partner.

"This is a complex investigation," State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley said. "The next phase will include more in-depth interviews of persons who test positive to determine the likelihood that their exposure is associated with their dental surgical procedure at the Harrington practice. We will certainly continue to keep the public informed as we learn more."

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