Ohio VA to screen hundreds of dental patients for hepatitis, HIV exposure

The Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Dayton, OH, is notifying more than 500 veterans that they may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV by a dentist at the clinic who failed to change his gloves and sterilize tools between patients, according to a story in the Dayton Daily News.

The Dayton VA Medical Center's dental clinic in Ohio was temporarily closed from August 19 to September 10 after employees raised concerns about infection control practices during an internal VA panel review of clinic operations in July, according to Todd Sledge, a spokesman for the VA Healthcare System of Ohio. It was reopened September 19 after the staff was updated regarding infection control requirements.

The review panel identified 535 veterans who visited the dental clinic between January 1, 1992, and July 28, 2010, and may be at risk for infection because they were seen by this particular clinician, according to the Daily News, and the VA is retrieving 150 additional records to see if those veterans also should be contacted.

The infection risk is extremely low and limited to patients of that clinician, the VA said in a press release. The screenings are being offered at no cost to those contacted, the VA noted, and should an affected veteran test positive, the agency will provide the necessary care and treatment without charge.

This is the second VA medical center in the past year to come under scrutiny for infection control lapses in the facility's dental clinic. In June 2010, it was revealed that more than 1,800 patients who went to a VA dental clinic in St. Louis between February 2009 and March 2010 may have been exposed to hepatitis and HIV due to improper cleaning of dental instruments.

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