Multnomah County's Health Department is contacting dozens of dental patients who might have been exposed in mid-May to infectious diseases because of improperly sterilized equipment.
Officials said Friday, June 8, that up to 18 people who received treatment at the county's Southeast Health Center Dental Clinic could have been exposed to hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV between May 11 and 24 because of the equipment. About 524 people were treated at the clinic during those 13 days, and the county recommended that all the patients be tested for possible infections.
The county will provide the tests without charge to clinic patients.
However, clients who visited the county's Baby Day dental clinic in mid-May are not affected by the issue because no dental instruments were used with the patients.
"We sincerely apologize to each and every patient affected and to their families,'' said Dental Director Len Barozzini. "The risk of exposure is minimal, but we want to do everything we can to inform our patients fully and assure their care."
County officials said that on Tuesday, June 5, a Health Department manager running an internal infection control check discovered a missing step in sterilization documentation for instruments used on patients at the Southeast Health Center dental clinic. As a result, the county cannot be sure that up to 18 instrument packets that went through the disinfection process on the evening of May 10 were fully sterilized.
The county reviewed the situation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed that the risk of disease transmission to patients is very low.