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Expert Says It's Rare To Contract Blood-Borne Disease In Medical Setting

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Sherrie Brown, a registered dental hygienist for over 30 years. Sherrie Brown, a registered dental hygienist for over 30 years.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

Many Oklahomans are in a panic after the Oklahoma State Health Department and Tulsa County Health Department warned that as many as 7,000 former patients of Dr. W. Scott Harrington could be exposed to blood-borne viruses.

An expert said people should be concerned, but it is rare to become infected in medical settings.

3/28/2013 Related Story: Tulsa County Dentist May Have Exposed 7,000 Patients To HIV, Hepatitis

Sherrie Brown, a registered dental hygienist for over 30 years who runs her own infection control consulting business, said she is shocked by the news. Brown consults for dozens of dentists' offices on best practices for sterilizing their equipment.

Brown admitted it is upsetting what state investigators found at Harrington's offices, but a national health scare might be a stretch.

The news certainly has been sending shock waves through the dental community. Tulsan Dr. David Wong said Harrington was a respected surgeon.

"I'm kind of reserving judgment for now, but you know if all the allegations are true, you know I'm definitely shocked to hear this, to say the least," Wong said.

One of the 17 allegations is that Harrington's office used bleach to clean instruments.

Brown said that was common practice 20 years ago.

"If indeed he was using bleach on rusted instruments, bleach would kill anything," Brown said. "That's certainly not the standard of care of proper instrument sterilization."

According to the complaint levied against Harrington with the Dental Board, "The CDC has determined that rusted instruments are porous and cannot be properly sterilized."

3/29/2013 Related Story: State Board Says Tulsa Dentist's Practice Was Unsafe, Unsanitary

Every year, Brown teaches hundreds of dental employees how to sterilize equipment, and has presented research on it.

If you're concerned about your dentist's instruments, both Brown and Wong said there is something you can do about it.

"All dentists that I know in the Tulsa area are very transparent about whether or not their sterilization practices are up to date," Wong said. "All you have to do is just ask."

Brown and Wong both agree -- the patients involved in this case should still get tested.

Free HIV and hepatitis B and C tests will be provided by the Tulsa County Health Department on a walk-in basis starting on Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and will resume on Monday, April 1 from 8 a.m.–6 p.m.

If you have any more questions, you can call the Tulsa County Health Department's hotline at 918-595-4500.

Read The Oklahoma Board Of Dentistry's Complaint Against Dr. Harrington

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