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About 1,200 dental patients in Oklahoma screened for HIV

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - About 1,200 patients have been screened for exposure to HIV and hepatitis in Oklahoma after authorities found a Tulsa dentist using improper sterilization procedures and rusty surgical tools, a public health official said on Tuesday.

More than 6,000 patients have yet to be tested and officials have not located all the exposed patients, said Kaitlin Snider, spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department.

Testing is free and patients should get results in two weeks.

Dr. Scott Harrington practiced in Tulsa for 35 years before he surrendered his license on March 20.

Harrington's oral surgery came under scrutiny last month after one of his patients tested positive for Hepatitis C, a contagious liver disease transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.

After concluding the patient had no typical risk factors, state investigators visited Harrington's office and found multiple health and safety violations that created cross-contamination and sterilization risks, according the administrative complaint filed against him by the state dentistry board.

Harrington's attorney was not immediately available to comment.

Drug vials and needles were used multiple times on different patients and instruments set aside for disease carriers appeared to be rusty, according to the complaint.

Harrington's practice served a large number of infectious disease carriers, according to the complaint against him.

Harrington, who delegated many of his duties to two assistants, is accused of 17 violations of Oklahoma dental regulations, including eight counts of "being a menace to the public health" by practicing unsafe and unsanitary dentistry.

The harshest sanction the dental board can levy is revocation of his license.

The Tulsa County District Attorney's office has not said whether it will file criminal charges against Harrington.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Lisa Shumaker)

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