By Steve Olafson
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Health officials are notifying some 7,000 people to warn they may have been exposed to HIV and other infectious diseases at an Oklahoma dental practice where improper sterilization procedures and rusty surgical tools were discovered, authorities said.
The investigation was launched after a patient of Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington of Tulsa was diagnosed with hepatitis C and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to a complaint filed against the oral surgeon.
When it was determined the patient was not engaged in behavior associated with blood-borne diseases, investigators visited Harrington's office and found an array of violations, according to the complaint, filed by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry on Tuesday.
The magnitude of the suspected violations and the number of patients involved were "unprecedented," said Susan Rogers, executive director of the Board of Dentistry, on Friday.
Harrington, 64, surrendered his license and is cooperating, officials said.
He has operated a Tulsa practice and maintained a satellite office in a suburb for about 35 years and has treated a large number of infectious disease carriers, the complaint said.
He is one of only a handful of dentists who accept Medicaid patients in the area, officials said.
The complaint says drug vials and needles were used multiple times on different patients, causing risk of cross-contamination. A separate set of instruments used for infectious disease carriers appeared rusty, it said.
The autoclave used to sterilize instruments was not being used properly and was not regularly tested, the complaint said.
Also, Harrington's drug cabinet and drug logs were in disarray, it said.
Harrington could not be reached for comment.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)