|Updated: 9/18/2013 5:11 pm
||Published: 9/18/2013 9:33 am
The Oklahoma State Health Department confirms one patient contracted hepatitis C in Dr. Scott Harrington's dental surgical office in Tulsa.
This is the first documented case in the United States of a person being infected with hepatitis C at a dental facility.
And while dozens of people were exposed to hepatitis C, B and HIV, health officials can only confirm one of them was actually infected at Harrington's office.
More than 4,200 of Harrington's patients were tested and 89 tested positive for hepatitis C.
"We are only able to have sufficient evidence to confirm this one event of patient to patient transmission. How others were infected is unknown, because we just don't have that evidence," said Kaitlin Snider with the Tulsa Health Department.
Five tested positive for hepatitis B.
"We have no reason to believe that Hep B was contracted in this facility," said Snider.
Four people tested positive for HIV, but it's unclear at this point whether any of them were infected at Harrington's office.
"We do have some HIV testing of genetic specimen pending at the CDC, and we don't expect to have those results for some time," she said.
While these positive test numbers seem high they're actually in line with the national average.
Based on prevalence rates in the U.S., if officials were to randomly test 4,200 people, the numbers testing positive for hepatitis B and HIV would be about the same.
The figures on hepatitis C in this case are just barely above normal.
It's also possible that Harrington patients were exposed to other types of illnesses, although no testing was done for any others.
Even so, it was taxpayers who footed the bill for the tests that were conducted.
"It was paid for through federal, state and local public health funds. Both the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Tulsa Health Department are exploring option in ways we can recoup some of those costs," said Snider.
While several patients are bringing civil suits against Harrington, at this point it's unlikely he would face any criminal charges, because under Oklahoma law prosecutors would have to prove he knowingly and purposely infected patients and there's no evidence of that happening.