Dentist HIV Risk: Colorado Dentist Reused Needles

By Amir Khan on July 17, 2012 8:47 AM EDT

Dentist
Dr. Stephen Stein, a Colorado dentist, put thousands of patients at risk of HIV and hepatitis by reusing needles over a 12-year span, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health. The state is now advising all of Dr. Stein's patients that the dentist but them at a huge HIV risk. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Dr. Stephen Stein, a Colorado dentist, put thousands of patients at risk of HIV and hepatitis by reusing needles over a 12-year span, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health. The state is now advising all of Dr. Stein's patients that the dentist but them at a huge HIV risk.

"Upon investigation, it was determined syringes and needles used to inject medications through patients' IV lines were saved and used again to inject medications through other patients' IV lines," the agency said in a statement. "This practice has been known to transmit infections."

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While the Department of Health stressed that "there have been no infections linked" to Dr. Stein yet, they said investigation is still underway and are working to get the records of all his patients so they can be notified directly.

"Notifications are being sent to patients for whom the department believes it has correct contact information," the agency said in a statement. "Those patients should receive the letters within the next few days."

HIV causes a failure of the immune system. Some people develop flulike symptoms within a few weeks of being infected, but most infected people show no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1 million Americans live with HIV, and about 25 percent of them are unaware of their HIV status, according to the CDC.

Hepatitis C damages livers and causes jaundice killed over 15,000 people in 2007 and surpassed HIV-related deaths, which accounted for nearly 13,000 deaths, for the first time. Many of the 3.2 million people in the United States infected with hepatitis do not know it. Symptoms are either not present or very mild, which could leave the disease undiagnosed for decades.

The department cautioned that records may be incomplete, so if you saw Dr. Stein between September 1999 and June 2011, they urge you to call CO-HELP at 1-877-462-2911 or visit http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/.

"Although testing cannot determine where or how someone was infected (at Stein's offices or from another exposure), it is important to know so treatment can begin," the agency said.

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