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Dentist's error has put hundreds of WI veterans at risk of hepatitis, HIV

The dentist used and cleaned his own dental equipment – which goes against VA practices.
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A dentist who reused his own equipment when treating patients at a VA medical center in Wisconsin may have given hundreds of them hepatitis or HIV.

The VA in Tomah, about 40 miles east of La Crosse, announced earlier this week that the dentist, who used and cleaned his own dental burs, had not followed the proper procedure of using either sterilized or disposable dental equipment, WEAU reports.

The LaCrosse Tribune reports he was also using unsterilized drill bits, and although only 54 patients received crowns or bridges, all 592 of his patients have been told to come in for a free screening for blood-borne diseases like hepatitis B, C and HIV.

A VA spokesman told the newspaper the screenings are precautionary and at this stage "there is no indication of a transmission of an infection."

Acting medical center director Victoria Brahm said this happened for a year between October 2015-16, and only came to light after a replacement assistant noticed what was going on and reported it to senior management, WEAU notes.

In a news conference, part of which you can watch below courtesy of WKBT TV, Brahm said the dentist was cleaning the equipment after each use with Virex disinfectant and a wipe, even though he was trained on the proper procedure when he was hired in October 2015.

Brahm said the dentist, who is now carrying out administrative work while he is investigated, was "very purposeful" about using his own equipment. "He knew what he was doing," she said.

David Clemens, the acting head of the Wisconsin Dental Association, told the station that such procedures have become standard for dentists since the proliferation of AIDs in the 1980s.

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