MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

May 17, 2013

New hepatitis case in public health scare

TULSA (AP) — One new case of hepatitis has been found among thousands of patients of a Tulsa oral surgeon whose clinics were determined unsanitary by investigators, health officials said Thursday.

The update released by the Tulsa Health Department includes one new case of hepatitis B — bringing the total to five since testing began in late March among former patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington. Unchanged among the patients who were tested are the 70 cases of hepatitis C and three of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

It’s not clear if the patients got the diseases at Harrington’s two Tulsa-area clinics. Officials noted in their investigation that Harrington’s staff had said they knew several already-infected patients came to the clinic.  Also, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says spreading disease at a dental clinic is extremely rare, with just three known cases in two decades.

About 7,000 of Harrington’s patients were advised by health officials to get tested for potential diseases after his clinics were inspected. About 3,900 have been tested in clinics across Oklahoma thus far.

Investigators found numerous problems at Harrington’s offices, including varying cleaning procedures for equipment, needles re-inserted in drug vials after their initial use, drug vials used on multiple patients and no written infection-protection procedure. Unlicensed dental assistants were also allegedly performing IV sedation.

Harrington, who has been a dentist for 36 years, voluntarily surrendered his credentials on March 20 and faces an Aug. 16 license revocation hearing.

Harrington’s attorney has not responded to repeated e-mail and phone messages seeking comment on the case. Previously, the attorney said his client is cooperating with the investigation and that Harrington’s record with the state’s dentistry board was “impeccable”

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