Many people dread going to the dentist. They may be worried about the number of cavities they have, the sound of the drill, or even the dental bill. However, no one expects to go to the dentist and come back with a chronic disease. A woman in Washington has claimed she tested positive for hepatitis C after a visit to the dentist.
The woman, identified only as Sandra, says she went for a dental checkup in June. Days later, her dental office called her to say there may have been a risk of cross-contamination with the dental equipment. She got tested immediately and received test results showing she was positive for hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a chronic disease that involves an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C can be spread through contact with the blood of an infected person. It ranges from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a chronic condition that attacks the liver. It can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Most cases of hepatitis C are spread through sharing needles; however, it can also be spread through sexual contact or poor infection-control practices.
“I'm concerned, and I don't feel comfortably able to touch anybody right now,” said Sandra. “I don't know what it's about. I'm scared. I'm hoping that my body is strong enough to heal it, but still, it's waiting.”
Sandra's attorney is investigating her case, trying to determine how the infection could have occurred, and to see if there are other victims who may have contracted the serious disease. “We want to do what we can to help her and, obviously, the public in general,” said Sandra's lawyer. “There could be a lot more Sandras out there who could be affected by this.”
The dental clinic says they are unaware of any other patients who were infected. The clinic claims they follow the highest safety standards for sterilization. The chief operating officer said that if the case becomes the subject of a legal claim, the clinic would not be able to make any further comments.
This is not the first time a dental clinic has been accused of spreading hepatitis C. In 2013, almost 90 patients of a Tulsa, Oklahoma dentist tested positive for hepatitis C. The dentist was allegedly using rusty equipment and dirty needles. After the clinic was shut down following an inspection that found lapses in sterilization, patients were advised to get tested.
According to an Oklahoma epidemiologist, this was “the first documented report of patient-to-patient transmission of hepatitis C virus associated with a dental setting in the United States.”
If you or a loved one has been infected during a visit to the dentist or hospital, Gilman & Bedigian team is ready to help. We are fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a medical malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of medical malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.