Health officials: Hepatitis C was spread at Tulsa dental clinic

Health officials: Hepatitis C was spread at Tulsa dental clinic

Posted: Updated:
TULSA -

(AP) — A Tulsa-area dentist whose practice was shut down because his equipment was rusty and his employees reused needles was responsible for the nation's first transmission of hepatitis C between patients in a dental office, Oklahoma health officials said Wednesday.

Related: Health Officials Urge Screenings for Patients of Tulsa Dentist.

Citing genetic testing performed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahoma's state epidemiologist said there was at least one instance in which Dr. W. Scott Harrington's practice spread an infectious disease.

"This is the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus associated with a dental setting in the United States," Dr. Kristy Bradley said. "When this initially began, we didn't necessarily think we would find enough evidence of transmission, but there were enough red flags for us to (investigate)."

Bradley said the probe will not be able to determine exactly how the transmission of the disease occurred but speculated in an interview Wednesday that it could have been the result of contaminated dental instruments or cross-contamination from reused needles or syringes, among other possibilities.

The state said genetic testing of HIV specimens are continuing at the CDC, which did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday.

"While our investigation documents the transmission of hepatitis C, we have no reason to believe the hepatitis B cases resulted from exposure in this dental practice," Bradley said.

State health inspectors shut down Harrington's clinic March 28 after finding unsanitary conditions. A 17-count complaint filed by the state called Harrington a "menace to the public health." The complaint said officials found rusty instruments, potentially contaminated drug vials and improper use of a machine designed to sterilize tools at Harrington's two Tulsa-area offices.

Health officials urged tests for 7,000 of Harrington's patients to determine whether they had contracted an infectious disease. Of 4,202 tested at state clinics, 89 tested positive for hepatitis C, five for hepatitis B and four for the virus that causes AIDS. In only one instance was it proven that the virus was contracted at a clinic, health officials said.

"It's been a hard road, but the bottom line is that the state health department and Dr. Bradley saved people's lives," Oklahoma Board of Dentistry Executive Director Susan Rogers said Wednesday.

Harrington had been a dentist for 36 years before voluntarily giving up his license March 20. He faces a January hearing before the state's dental board.

Earlier this month, seven of Harrington's patients filed a class-action lawsuit in Tulsa naming the doctor, his corporation, his medical staff and several pharmaceutical companies as defendants.

Five of the seven plaintiffs said in the lawsuit they had been diagnosed with an infectious disease due to the actions of Harrington and the others. The former patients also said they are at risk of contracting blood-borne pathogens.

"Plaintiffs are informed and believe that they were exposed to contaminated propofol vials and/or equipment not effectively sterilized by autoclave components, at the dental clinics which resulted in plaintiffs contracting infectious diseases," the lawsuit stated.

Related: Patients in Tulsa public health scare still sought.

Harrington's attorney in Tulsa, James Secrest II, did not return a phone message seeking comment on the report Wednesday and an assistant at his practice said he was out of the office.

Secrest issued a statement early in the health scare saying his client was cooperating fully with the probe and that Harrington's record with the state dentistry board was "impeccable."

The public alert began after a patient of Harrington's initially tested positive for HIV in a screening at a third-party provider.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Top StoriesMore>>

  • Man critically injured after behind hit by car in Moore

    Man critically injured after behind hit by car in Moore

    Thursday, April 24 2014 8:19 AM EDT2014-04-24 12:19:33 GMT
    Moore police investigate after man hit by carMoore police investigate after man hit by car
    Police are investigating after a man was critically injured after being hit by a car early Thursday morning.
    Police are investigating after a man was critically injured after being hit by a car early Thursday morning.
  • Oklahoma teens avoid law, risk serious consequences with tattoos

    Oklahoma teens avoid law, risk serious consequences with tattoos

    Thursday, April 24 2014 5:00 AM EDT2014-04-24 09:00:33 GMT
    Back in 2006, Oklahoma became the last state to legalize tattoo parlors, but teens are still not allowed to get inked. That's not stopping many young people, sometimes finding themselves in dangerous situations simply because they can't wait a few months or years to get tattooed legally.
    Back in 2006, Oklahoma became the last state to legalize tattoo parlors, but teens are still not allowed to get inked. That's not stopping many young people, sometimes finding themselves in dangerous situations simply because they can't wait a few months or years to get tattooed legally.
  • Tools track kids' phone use

    Tools track kids' phone use

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 10:40 PM EDT2014-04-24 02:40:03 GMT
    Apps keep tabs on teensApps keep tabs on teens
    With so many teens and kids armed with smartphones, parents can often feel out of the loop and maybe even nervous about how their kids are using those devices. There are now more ways than ever before for parents to keep tabs. We asked the folks at Verizon to break down the best options. Lawrence Ross said, "With Family Base you can see who your children are talking to, when they're talking to them." At $5 a month, Family Base gives you alerts and email updates on exactly how your kids are ...
    With so many teens and kids armed with smartphones, parents can often feel out of the loop and maybe even nervous about how their kids are using those devices. There are now more ways than ever before for parents to keep tabs. We asked the folks at Verizon to break down the best options. Lawrence Ross said, "With Family Base you can see who your children are talking to, when they're talking to them." At $5 a month, Family Base gives you alerts and email updates on exactly how your kids are ...
  • More HeadlinesMore>>

  • Texas teacher accused of taking away second grader's bible during reading time

    Texas teacher accused of taking away second grader's bible during reading time

    Thursday, April 24 2014 5:10 AM EDT2014-04-24 09:10:57 GMT
    A Houston area school teacher is being accused of telling an elementary school student she can't read the Bible in school and is not even allowed to bring the Bible to school.
    A Houston area school teacher is being accused of telling an elementary school student she can't read the Bible in school and is not even allowed to bring the Bible to school.
  • Tools track kids' phone use

    Tools track kids' phone use

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 10:40 PM EDT2014-04-24 02:40:03 GMT
    Apps keep tabs on teensApps keep tabs on teens
    With so many teens and kids armed with smartphones, parents can often feel out of the loop and maybe even nervous about how their kids are using those devices. There are now more ways than ever before for parents to keep tabs. We asked the folks at Verizon to break down the best options. Lawrence Ross said, "With Family Base you can see who your children are talking to, when they're talking to them." At $5 a month, Family Base gives you alerts and email updates on exactly how your kids are ...
    With so many teens and kids armed with smartphones, parents can often feel out of the loop and maybe even nervous about how their kids are using those devices. There are now more ways than ever before for parents to keep tabs. We asked the folks at Verizon to break down the best options. Lawrence Ross said, "With Family Base you can see who your children are talking to, when they're talking to them." At $5 a month, Family Base gives you alerts and email updates on exactly how your kids are ...
  • Georgia governor signs gun law allowing guns in churches, schools

    Georgia governor signs gun law allowing guns in churches, schools

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:17 PM EDT2014-04-23 17:17:30 GMT
    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law Wednesday that has critics howling and proponents applauding.
    Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law Wednesday that has critics howling and proponents applauding.
  • FOX25 Slideshows

  • FOX 25 FeaturesMore>>

  • Tell Me Something Good

    Tell Me Something Good

    Tired of all the bad news? Looking for some good news? Tell Me Something Good, does just that! FOX 25's Mike Brooks finds the good in Oklahoma and tells you all about it.
    Tired of all the bad news? Looking for some good news? Tell Me Something Good, does just that! FOX 25's Mike Brooks finds the good in Oklahoma and tells you all about it.
  • Waste Watch

    Waste Watch

    How are your tax dollars being spent? FOX 25 Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments, or any groups, are using your money wisely... or wasting it.
    How are your tax dollars being spent? FOX 25 Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments, or any groups, are using your money wisely... or wasting it.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by 

WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KOKH. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.