Ohio VA still probing dental clinic scandal

A year after the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Dayton, OH, acknowledged infection-control lapses in its dental clinic that put hundreds of veterans at risk, officials are continuing to determine whether three veterans who tested positive for hepatitis contracted the disease at the clinic.

An internal VA investigation has not identified a link between the three positive cases and the care they received at the dental clinic, but hepatitis specialists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have conducted an analysis, called "ultradeep sequencing," according to a story in the Dayton Daily News.

The genotype sequencing should show whether the specific hepatitis strains found in the veterans are similar to those found in other veterans seen previously in the clinic who contracted the disease elsewhere. A match would seemingly prove that poor infection-control practices in the dental clinic were responsible for the spread of one patient's hepatitis infection to another.

The analysis is nearly complete, and VA officials expect results within the next few weeks, according to the story.

In February 2011, the VA notified 535 veterans that they may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV by Dwight Pemberton, DDS, the dentist who allegedly failed to properly sterilize dental instruments between patients between 1992 and 2010. Of these, 507 have been tested. No new cases of HIV have been identified in the 535 patients, according to the VA.

A report released by the VA's Office of the Inspector General confirmed that the VAMC failed to follow infection-control policies, putting hundreds of dental patients at risk of infection for nearly 20 years.

Dr. Pemberton, 81, retired last year before the VA took disciplinary action against him. He has denied the allegations against him.

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