Oklahoma Dentist’s Patients Struggle to Cope with HIV, Hepatitis Scare
(TULSA, Oka.) -- Among the 7,000 patients who may have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis in an Oklahoma dentist's office are children, as their nervous parents wait to get them tested and grapple with how to explain the public health nightmare.
Deann Zavala took her four children to Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington, an oral surgeon who practices in Tulsa and Owasso. She said her youngest daughter had a tooth extracted.
"How do you look at her and be like, 'You could have AIDS?'" she told ABC News Radio.
The state dental board is offering free testing to Harrington's patients after a 17-count complaint revealed his allegedly poor sterilization practices could have put them at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B.
Patients received a letter from the Tulsa Health Department on Friday informing them of an inquiry into Harrington's practice and advising them to get screened.
Zavala, who said she trusted Harrington to care for her four children, was left shaken.
"If you can't trust a doctor and a dentist and ... the people that are supposed to do right by you ... who can you trust?" she said.
The dentist's alleged practices came to light after a patient who had no known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment in Harrington's office, tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C.
After hearing about the infected patient on March 15, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise investigation of the dentist's practice on March 18, allegedly finding numerous sterilization and cross-contamination issues.
Harrington, who has been practicing for more than 30 years, may face criminal charges. The dentist voluntarily surrendered his state dental license and other permits, and a formal hearing before the dentistry board is scheduled for April 19.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio