As previously reported, a Tulsa area dentist was thought to have exposed over 7,000 of his patients to hepatitis and HIV. The revelation came after state investigators went through his office and saw that the machine the office was supposed to be using to sterilize medical tools had not been operational for years.

The Tulsa Health Department then offered free HIV and hepatitis screenings for the more than 7,000 patients since 2008 that may have been exposed to cross-contamination from other patients with blood-borne diseases. Letters were sent out to all former patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington stating that they may have been exposed to infectious diseases and should seek testing immediately.

The first round of testing has been completed 3,122 former patients and the results are in.

According to the Tulsa Health Department press release "7 individuals who tested positive for hepatitis C, and 3 individuals who tested positive for hepatitis B. Positive results have been reported for HIV, but OSDH Data Security Policy regarding HIV disclosure prohibits public reporting of numbers less than 3."

"We understand these first reported test results may be of concern," said THD Director Dr. Bruce Dart. "Thorough investigations are routinely conducted upon notification of a positive report for these infections. This response will be handled in the same manner, as disease investigation is a core public health service and staff are well trained to conduct this type of response."

The issue at hand is if the former patients had been infected directly through negligence on the part of the dentist, or if they had been exposed to these diseases in unrelated circumstances.

"This is a complex investigation," emphasized State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley. "The next phase will include more in-depth interviews of persons who test positive to determine the likelihood that their exposure is associated with their dental surgical procedure at the Harrington practice. We will certainly continue to keep the public informed as we learn more."

The health department believes that only a few of the positive results are related to the dentist's malfeasance. They are in the process of conducting interviews with those that have tested positive to determine the likely hood of exposure outside of the dentist's office.

Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States with infections and deaths rising steadily. Unlike HIV, which becomes inactive and non-invective when it comes into contact with the air, while Hepatitis C can live on surfaces for four to 16 hours.