Rate of Harrington Patients' Positive Hepatitis C Tests in Line with National Infection Rate

Apr 18, 2013

Credit KWGS News

The first round of results are in from testing of former patients of oral surgeon Dr. W. Scott Harrington. 

So far 57 have tested positive for hepatitis C and three have tested positive for hepatitis B.

The Tulsa Health Department's Kaitlin Snider says of positive test results for HIV, "All we can confirm is less than three."

Snyder says it's important to understand that without further investigation, it is premature to conclude that these positive test results were the result of contamination at Harrington's office.

"We will conduct individual case investigations for each person whose test result was positive, to try to determine when and how that person may have become infected," she said.

"We knew going into this, based on disease prevalence data, that we were going to encounter some who tested positive who were maybe the likely result of infection exposure not related to dental procedures at the Harrington practice," she said.

The U.S. prevalence rate of hepatitis C is about 1.8 percent. That's closely in line with the rate of hepatitis C positive results the Health Department has seen so far among Harrington patients. The Oklahoma State Department of Health's Public Health Laboratory, which is conducting the analysis of samples collected at free clinics across the state, has completed testing for 3,122 people.

"If we were to do a sample," she said, "of anywhere in the United States, this number would be what we would expect."

The Health Department will conduct investigations of each positive test result to determine whether it originated at Harrington's practice or as a result of other factors.

The testing began in March after an investigation at Harrington's office revealed potentially unsafe and unsanitary practices. The Tulsa Health Department began urging anyone who had been a patient of Dr. Harrington's to take advantage of free testing at North Regional Health and Wellness Center, 5635 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Testing will continue as long as necessary, though Snider says THD is recommending people call in advance to make an appointment to avoid long waits. That number is (918) 595-4380. A hotline for information related to the investigation is set up at (918) 595-4500.