Entries in Hepatitis (3)


Oklahoma Dentist's Patients Struggle to Cope with HIV, Hepatitis Scare

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TULSA, Oka.) -- Among the 7,000 patients who may have been exposed to HIV and Hepatitis in an Oklahoma dentist's office are children, as their nervous parents wait to get them tested and grapple with how to explain the public health nightmare.

Deann Zavala took her four children to Dr. Wayne Scott Harrington, an oral surgeon who practices in Tulsa and Owasso. She said her youngest daughter had a tooth extracted.

"How do you look at her and be like, 'You could have AIDS?'" she told ABC News Radio.

The state dental board is offering free testing to Harrington's patients after a 17-count complaint revealed his allegedly poor sterilization practices could have put them at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and hepatitis B.

Patients received a letter from the Tulsa Health Department on Friday informing them of an inquiry into Harrington's practice and advising them to get screened.

Zavala, who said she trusted Harrington to care for her four children, was left shaken.

"If you can't trust a doctor and a dentist and ... the people that are supposed to do right by you ... who can you trust?" she said.

The dentist's alleged practices came to light after a patient who had no known risk factors other than receiving dental treatment in Harrington's office, tested positive for both HIV and hepatitis C.

After hearing about the infected patient on March 15, the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry conducted a surprise investigation of the dentist's practice on March 18, allegedly finding numerous sterilization and cross-contamination issues.

Harrington, who has been practicing for more than 30 years, may face criminal charges. The dentist voluntarily surrendered his state dental license and other permits, and a formal hearing before the dentistry board is scheduled for April 19.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Film Highlights Hepatitis Research on Kids with Disabilities

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Willowbrook, a film that highlights hepatitis research on disabled children during the 1960s, is being screened  in New York this weekend as part of ReelAbilities, a festival that features disabilities in film.

“It was unanimously accepted by our board,” said ReelAbilities director Isaac Zablocki.  “When we saw it, there was no question we wanted to keep it.”

Although it is a work of fiction, the film is based on Willowbrook State School, which was an institution in Staten Island, N.Y., for children with intellectual disabilities until the late 1980s.  During the 1950s and 1960s, some children there were purposefully exposed to hepatitis for research.

The film follows a new doctor, Bill Huntsman, as he learns what the research patients endure for inpatient care and must decide whether he wants to participate.  Huntsman’s superior, known only as Dr. Horowitz, explains that parents willingly give consent for hepatitis research on their children because they think they have no other choice.  The non-research ward stopped taking new patients, but the research ward will take children in if they undergo a hepatitis injection.

Although neither director Ross Cohen nor screenwriter Andrew Rothschild had personal connections to Willowbrook, they stumbled upon it and were intrigued, Cohen said.

“The main ethical issue, apart from the fact that doctors are supposed to do no harm, is that the decision was not done freely,” said Cohen, 29.  “It’s based on the fact that the school was full, and they weren’t taking any more people by the end of ’63.”

All of the children in the film, with the exception of the lead actor, actually had disabilities.  They live in California with Ann Belles, who has adopted and parented 59 boys with disabilities since 1989.  She also runs non-profit and a supported living program for adults with disabilities.

“They were really cool about taking part in it,” Cohen said.  “It was fun for them, I think.”

Although all of the actors spent time with Belles’ children, no one spent more time with them than Zachary Winard, the actor who played Brian Sussman, a teen whose intellectual disabilities rendered him unable to speak.  In the film, Sussman is a boy whose mother debates whether to sign the consent forms for hepatitis research.

“People look for that authenticity,” Zablocki said, adding that it usually takes a director with a disability or an actor with a disability to get the right feel in a movie.

He said thousands of people attend ReelAbilities, but only about half of them have a disability or are connected to someone who does.

“It’s both to raise awareness and to bridge gaps,” Zablocki said.  “We look to reach beyond disabilities and reach the mainstream community.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Colorado Dental Patients Advised to Get HIV, Hepatitis Testing

A screen grab from Dr. Stephen Stein's former dental practice website. ( -- Patients of a former Colorado oral surgeon have been advised to get tested for HIV and hepatitis infections after a state health department investigation accused him of reusing syringes and needles on patients receiving intravenous medications for nearly 12 years.

Any patient who received an IV injection, including sedation, from licensed dentist Dr. Stephen Stein between September 1999 and June 2011 might have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement July 12.

Denver police are also involved in the case.

"Right now [Stein's] case is an active ongoing investigation for prescription fraud," police spokeswoman Raquel Lopez said. "We received the information on April 3 of this year."

Stein sold his practice in September 2012 to Dr. Jeremey Miner, an oral surgeon, according to a woman who answered the phone at his former practice. They had not worked together previously.

Meanwhile, the state health department issued about 8,000 letters to some of Stein's former patients at both his Highlands Ranch and Denver, Colo., offices, urging them to get tested, department spokesman Mark Salley said.

Records were only available for Stein's patients from 2005 to 2011, so they will be the only ones receiving the notifications, Salley said. The patients he treated before then will not receive a notice to seek testing.

Without the records, Salley added, there's no way to know how many patients were at risk in the earlier years.

Salley said the state health department began its investigation in April after receiving a report of alleged unsafe injection practices from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which licenses dentists statewide.

The investigation determined that the "syringes and needles used to inject medications through patient's IV lines were saved and used again to inject medications through other patients' IV lines."

"This practice has been shown to transmit infections," according to the health department's statement.

But by the time the Department of Public Health was notified of Stein's allegedly unsafe practices, the dentist had already entered into an interim agreement with the Colorado Board of Dental Examiners to stop practicing in June 2011, Salley said.

Salley declined to provide details and Stein's lawyer, Victoria Lovato, has not returned telephone messages requesting comment.

Salley said that even if Stein's former patients test positive for any of the diseases, it does not mean they contracted it through Stein's injection practices.

The health department has asked health providers who test Stein's former patients to report any positive tests for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C to their county or state health departments, according to the statement.

"We don't have any results back and we're not likely to for a couple of weeks," Salley said. "It might be that there are no positive tests to come back."

The risk to Stein's former patients' health is likely to be low and a negative result should not require additional follow up, said Dr. Joseph Perz, a health care epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"My understanding is that for the majority of patients affected, the exposure would have taken place a considerable while ago and so the issues around incubation shouldn't be a factor for the vast majority of patients," he said.

But Perz said special treatment must be given to blood- borne viruses because there is potential for chronic infection.

Perz said that while the CDC takes a firm stance that safe injection practices are every health provider's responsibility, there have been multiple incidents of doctors reusing syringes for significant time periods that led to mass patient notification.

"This is sort of the latest in a string of these events that really do leave us scratching our heads," he said.

Salley said individuals at risk who have health insurance should contact their health care providers for testing. Those who don't, he said, should contact the state health department's hotline for a list of information by county.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio