7,000 people in Tulsa potentially exposed to HIV from ‘shop of horrors’ dentist office
UPDATE: A former patient of oral surgeon W. Scott Harrington has spoken out to Metro as she waits to be tested for HIV and hepatitis after learning she may have been exposed during a tooth extraction he performed on her a year and a half ago.
In a terrifying instance of urban legend-turned-reality, more than 7,000 people in Oklahoma may have been exposed to HIV after visiting a dentist officials say was working in horrifically unsanitary conditions, complete with rusty tools and unsterilized needles.
The nightmare began to unravel after the health department alerted the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry to a potential hepatitis C infection that may have been contracted from W. Scott Harrington’s office in Tulsa, according to CNN.
Dentistry board members said they literally felt sick to their stomachs after visiting the office, describing unsterilized medial devices and unlicensed employees performing intravenous sedation on patients.
“The instruments that came out of the autoclave were horrible,” Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, told CNN. “I wouldn’t let my nephews play with them out in the dirt. I mean, they were horrible. They had rust on them.”
Harrington, an oral surgeon who has been practicing for 35 years, saw many low-income patients using Medicaid for their dental procedures, including invasive oral surgery that exposed bone and tissue. He told investigators he often performed dental work on patients who had HIV and hepatitis.
Now, the health department is scrambling to notify by letter 7,000 patients who visited Harrington since 2007 that they should be tested for hepatitis and HIV.
“Hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are serious medical conditions, and infected patients may not have outward symptoms of the disease for many years,” the health department warned on its website. “As a precaution, and in order to take appropriate steps to protect their health, it is important for these patients to get tested. It should be noted that transmission in this type of occupational setting is rare.”
Follow Cassandra Garrison on Twitter at @CassieAtMetro.