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Tulsa Dentist's Patients Test Positive for Blood-Borne Diseases

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When the unsanitary practices in the dental offices of Dr. W. Scott Harrington first came to light in March , it was as a result of one of the dentist's patients having tested positive for the blood-borne diseases HIV and hepatitis C in the absence of other risk factors. Since then, more than 3,000 people who had been Harrington's patients have received testing through the Tulsa Health Department -- and more than 50 of these people have learned they've tested positive for hepatitis C, according to a situation update provided Thursday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health .

Blood Testing for Harrington's Former Patients

In a situation update provided by the Tulsa Health Department on Tuesday, it was reported that more than 2,500 people have received free blood testing through that county's agencies, nearly 60 more through the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and nearly 600 others through 30 other various county health departments, bringing the total tested to date to 3,235 .

Situation updates yesterday by both the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Tulsa Health Department revealed that of the total tested thus far, 57 people have tested positively for hepatitis C, three have tested positively for hepatitis B, and at least one person has tested positively for HIV -- all conditions that are blood-borne.

Confidential, personal notifications have begun to be made to those who tested positive and further investigation into the origins of the positive test results will begin, as is routine for any positive results of such testing, explained Bruce Dart, Ph.D. , director of the Tulsa Health Department. State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley explained that questions and investigations will help to determine whether the positive tests were as a result of exposure through Harrington's actions or another method and the public will be updated as further information is available.

Dentist Waives Hearing

Harrington, the dentist whose practices are at the center of this public health dilemma, was scheduled for a hearing Friday with the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry for possible suspension of his dental license. Through his attorney, Harrington notified the board that he waived today's hearing, reported , and is now scheduled for an Aug. 16 hearing for possible revocation of his license.

Harrington voluntarily surrendered his credentials to officials March 20, and both his Tulsa and Owasso offices are closed.

Free Blood Testing Continues

For current and former patients living in the Tulsa area, free blood testing continues to be offered at the North Regional Health and Wellness Center. While walk-ins are taken, it is advised to call the Center at 918-595-4380 to schedule an appointment for testing to minimize wait time.

Current and former patients of Harrington living elsewhere in the state should contact their local county health department for testing availability.

A Patient Information hotline, 918-595-4500, is available for questions or concerns. Both English- and Spanish-speaking representatives are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. through 5 p.m.

Bottom Line

It is too early in the blood testing process to determine how many, if any, of the people who have tested positive for blood-borne diseases acquired them through unsanitary dental practices or were exposed in another way. In the meantime, current and former patients of Harrington should continue to avail themselves of the free blood testing.

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