Tulsa World (09.18.2013)
Aids Weekly Plus
The Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Tulsa Health Department reported the first documented instance of patient-to-patient hepatitis C transmission in a Tulsa dentist’s practice. On March 28, the health departments notified thousands of the dentist’s former patients of potential hepatitis C exposure at the dentist’s Tulsa and Owasso offices and recommended the patients have hepatitis C testing at free clinics. After the notification, 4,202 former patients had free hepatitis screening and others had testing at private clinics. The testing identified 89 former patients with hepatitis C, five with hepatitis B, and four with HIV.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley stated that CDC conducted genetic-based testing of patient specimens to confirm the single instance of patient-to-patient transmission. Officials had expected that testing would diagnose some cases of hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and HIV among the dentist’s patients, based on overall US prevalence rates. Bradley emphasized that US dental procedures generally were safe, but the hepatitis C transmission incident emphasized the importance of strict infection control procedures in dental practices.
Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris stated that the dentist was unlikely to face criminal charges because the state would have to prove the dentist “knowingly caused” the hepatitis C transmission from patient to patient.