HIV Risk for 7,000 Patients of Dentist; Clinic Used Dirty Equipment

State health officials in Oklahoma are sending letters to more than 7,000 patients of a popular dentist insisting they get tested after having been possibly exposed to HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

The state's health inspector's claim that employees at Dr. W. Scott Harrington's two clinics used un-sanitized equipment and failed to adequately provide for a sterile environment with the state's Dentistry Board labeling Harrington a "menace to the public health."

"The office looked clean … I'm sure he's not suffering financially that he can't afford instruments," Joyce Baylor, who visited Harrington's Tulsa office more than a year ago, told the Associated Pres. She added that she will get tested next week.

Health officials opened their investigation after a patient with no known risk factors tested positive for both hepatitis C and HIV.

Investigators found that the likely time of exposure was around the same time the unidentified patient had a dental procedure done, and when they visited Harrington's office, they discovered several state health code violations, state epidemiologist Kristy Bradley said.

"I want to stress that this is not an outbreak. The investigation is still very much in its early stages," Bradley said in a statement.

Harrington has already voluntarily given up license and closed both his offices in Tulsa and suburban Owasso, Kaitlin Snider, a spokeswoman for the Tulsa Health Department, revealed to Reuters.

"It's uncertain how long those practices have been in place," Snider said. "He's been practicing for 36 years."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is cooperating with the investigation and a spokeswoman said such situations involving dental clinics are rare.

Last year a Colorado oral surgeon was accused of reusing needles and syringes, which prompted more than 8,000 letters to be sent to patients who could have been exposed, CDC spokeswoman Abbigail Tumpey told AP.

"We've only had a handful of dental facilities where we've had notifications in the last decade," Tumpey said.