Nightly News   |  March 30, 2013

Dentist’s patients line up for HIV, hepatitis tests

Patients of a Tulsa oral surgeon accused of unsanitary practices waited in line to discover whether they had been exposed to hepatitis or HIV. NBC’s Charles Hadlock reports.

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>>> there is a health scare we're following tonight that involves thousands of people who may have been put at risk simply by going to the dentist. hundreds of them lined up in tulsa , oklahoma, today to be tested for hepatitis and hiv, after visiting an oral surgeon accused of unsanitary practices. nbc's charles hadlock is in tulsa tonight with more for us. charles ?

>> reporter: good evening, lester. today was the first day that patients who may have been exposed to infectious diseases at a local dentist's office could come and get tested. 400 people showed up today, but there are thousands more who may have been infected. the line at the tulsa county health department stretched out the door today. hundreds of people who have one thing in common, all were patients of dr. scott harrington , whose dental practice is now at the center of a health scare.

>> i figure i better get tested and be safe. it's the smartest thing to do.

>> reporter: state health officials said harrington 's clinic may have been the source of hepatitis in at least one patient, and fear there could be more. they've notified 7,000 patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis on hiv.

>> we are here for the long run. we know that it's going to take a couple weeks, to months, to get everyone screened. and so we are here and we'll have this clinic established here until we see the last person.

>> reporter: in a 17-count complaint, the state board of dentistry accuses dr. harrington of being a menace to public health because of unsanitary practices found in his office. inspectors say harrington 's clinic had rusty equipment, allowed dental assistants to perform surgery without a license. harrington 's staff improperly sterilized tools with bleach which caused them to corrode. harrington has surrendered his dental license and is cooperating with authorities.

>> i just have been tested for hepatitis c .

>> reporter: back at the long line at the clinic, melinda harris waits for the results of her tests.

>> i'm really scared, because i feel like that's my had fiance right there. if anything happens, you know, it's not good news, that he's going to have to be tested.

>> reporter: linda harris and all the others will have to wait at least two more weeks to know the results. lester?

>> charles hadlock in tulsa , thanks.