Last March, state health investigators shut down the dentist office of W. Scott Harrington in Oklahoma after officials found sterilization and other health violations.
Officials asked 7,000 of his patients to be tested for hepatitis and HIV, and a total of 89 patients tested positive for hepatitis C.
However, so far, only one case has been directly tied to his dental practice. Four cases of HIV were also found in his patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting genetic testing to determine whether those cases are tied to the dental office.
"This is the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus associated with a dental setting in the United States.
The dentistry board launched its probe after one of Harrington's patients came down with hepatitis C. The Oklahoma Public Health Laboratory has since completed testing for 4,202 of his patients. An unknown number of patients sought testing through their private health providers.
Some of the violations at the dental office included unlicensed employees using IVs to sedate patients, improper handling of needles and the drug cabinet was left unlocked.
Harrington voluntarily surrendered his dental license this year.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that can lead to liver failure and death. According to the CDC, approximately 70% to 80% of people living with the virus do not have any symptoms.
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Source: CNN, "Hepatitis C case linked to Oklahoma dentist's office," Sept. 18, 2013.