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65 test positive for hepatitis C in Oklahoma

Tulsa, Okla.—Blood tests on patients of an oral surgeon under investigation here for infection control violations yielded 65 positive results for hepatitis C virus and three for hepatitis B, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Fewer than three tested positive for HIV, the health department said.

However, the source of the infections has not been confirmed from epidemiological data.

Based on current Oklahoma disease prevalence data for HBV, HCV and HIV, health officials recognize some of the positive screening tests are likely not related to dental procedures performed by the dentist under investigation, according to a statement posted April 25 on the OSDH website.

The OSDH, the Tulsa Health Department and the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry announced a joint investigation of the oral surgeon in a March 28 letter to patients on the OSDH website. The letter also said that 7,000 patients were being notified of potential exposure to bloodborne viruses.

So far, 3,568 patients have visited county health departments in Oklahoma for testing with lab results returned for 3,503.

The OSDH reported in the statement that in the "ongoing investigation" 65 people tested positive for hepatitis C, three tested positive for hepatitis B and an undisclosed number tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus.

Oklahoma state policy prohibits publicly reporting fewer than three positive HIV results, the update said.

"This is a complex investigation," said state epidemiologist Kristy Bradley, D.V.M., in the update. "The next phase will include more in-depth interviews of persons who test positive to determine the likelihood that their exposure is associated with their dental surgical procedure at the … practice. We will certainly continue to keep the public informed as we learn more."