The U.S. department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has said that 20 patients treated on May 23 and May 27 in Hawaii may have been exposed to viruses due to instruments that were not sterilized. The dental instruments used were believed to be clean, but the VA monitors said they were not sterilized. Only a single load of dental equipment, which was typically sent from one medical center with a dental clinic to a different medical center for sterilization was not performed. It is believed that the risk of contracting anything like HIV or hepatitis is low but patients at risk are recommend to be tested for viruses.
The source of the story is over at khon2 titled Veterans Affairs apologizes to dental patients for unsterilized instruments written by Nestor Garcia on June 27, 2014, and located over at http://khon2.com/2014/06/27/veterans-affairs-apologizes-to-dental-patients-for-unsterilized-instruments/. Staff at khon2 observed the sterilization procedure followed at the VA. They said in their article
“First, they scrubbed the instruments, then placed them into an ultrasonic machine to rid the instruments of debris. Next, the instruments were blown dry, placed in a bag and put into an autoclave. The machine steamed them clean for 45 minutes at a temperature of more than 270 degrees.”
In the past, other cases of infection control lapses at dental clinics and by dentists have been discussed. For example, earlier this year 2 cases occurred at different dental offices in Pennsylvania. See the blog post http://blog.teethremoval.com/dental-patients-warned-of-possible-hiv-and-hepatitis-exposure-in-pennsylvania/ and the post http://blog.teethremoval.com/more-dental-patients-warned-of-potential-hiv-and-hepatitis-exposure-in-pennsylvania/.
The good thing about this case at the VA is that it was a brief lapse and clear procedures and practices were in place. In other cases thousands of potential patients were exposed to potential hepatitis and HIV before the problem was identified. For example, in 1 case in Oklahoma over 7,000 patients were identified as being potentially exposed to virsuses during dental procedures. See the blog post http://blog.teethremoval.com/oral-surgeon-investigated-for-reusing-needles-and-syringes/.