Roughly 1,250 children may have been exposed to viruses including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as a result of dental tools that were improperly sterilized, according to new reports.
The at-risk youngsters are students at a dozen schools in Seattle and Vashon Island that house health clinics, KOMO News reported.
Neighborcare Health, which runs the school-based clinics, said the sterilization deficiency turned up during a review and affected handpiece equipment that were used to clean or put fillings in teeth.
The tools were disinfected with a germicidal that kills pathogens associated with hepatitis b, hepatitis c and HIV. But they were not fully heat-sterilized as required by Neighborcare Health’s policy.
The students in Seattle were potentially exposed to the viruses before March 4, while those at schools in Vashon Island may have been exposed between September 2017 and March 2018.
“We want to first clearly express how sorry we are for this incident and any concern that it causes our patients and their families … and what we are doing to ensure it cannot happen again,” Neighborcare Health CEO Michael Erikson said in a statement.
He said according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been no reports of transmission of infectious disease via dental handpieces. The risk to the students is considered to be very low, Erikson said.
Parents were notified about the sterilization snafu in letters that included details on how to get their child tested. Screening will be provided at no cost.
A spokesman for the Seattle Public Schools system agreed students were at “low risk” for exposure.
“The City of Seattle supports dental and health care onsite at many of our schools. Public Health King County selects and manages dental care providers through a rigorous process,” the spokesman said. “While we are deeply concerned, we appreciate that Neighborcare Health has been proactive in informing families and schools about the protocol deficiencies identified in its school-based dental programs.”