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Marana dental patients may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis

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Marana dental patients may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis

Health Dep't recommends screening

  • derekdaltodentistn/Flickr

Patients of T Dental Clinic may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis or other infectious diseases before the Marana dental clinic closed nearly three years ago, county health officials said Wednesday morning.

The Pima County Health Department is working to contact 174 patients seen at the clinic, 3662 W. Ina Rd., between January and July 2010.

The clinic was operated by Dr. Victor E. Trujillo, who was twice disciplined by the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners for minor infractions. Trujillo now practices in the 1600 block of South 4th Avenue.

An improperly installed compressor may have exposed patients to blood-borne diseases. The suction lines of the compressor were connected with a "T" adapater to the outgoing positive pressure lines, said Michael Acoba of the Pima County Health Department, citing information from the state Health Department.

"This misconnection led to blood and body fluids collecting within the compressor and lines," Acoba said.

That resulted in the possiblity of exposure to infections, he said.

Health Department officials cautioned that there have been no reports of exposures.

"Dental offices have high safety standards, and this is a very rare occurrence," said Erin Coulter.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that infectious disease transmission during oral care is rare; only three cases have been traced back to dentists and oral surgeons.

The potential for exposures took nearly three years to come to light because the clinic's equipment was auctioned off when it closed in July 2010.

A Maricopa County dentist purchased the compressor and kept it in storage until last month, Coulter said. When he discovered the cross-connection, he notified that state Health Department, she said.

While officials said that only those patients seen between January and July 2010 should be tested, Trujillo ran the clinic from at least 2002 until it closed three years ago.

In 2002, Trujillo was fined $500 by the dental board for failing to respond to a subpoena. In 2007, he was ordered to pay $1,580 in restitution to a patient in what the board called a case of "unprofessional conduct."

While no transmission cases have been identified, patients of T Dental should be tested for Hepatitis B and C, and HIV, officials said.

"At this time we are trying to help provide residents with sufficient information so they can take the appropriate steps to feel secure about their health. The only individuals at risk for infection are those who were seen at T Dental Clinic during a very specific period of time," said Dr. Francisco Garcia, director of the county Health Department, in a news release.

"Although medical and dental offices are not regulated by the county health department, we believe it is important to to inform the public about this possible health risk," he said.

T Dental Clinic patients who have questions or may need a referral on where to get tested can speak with department staffers by calling 243-7808 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays.

The county will arrange for free testing for those without health insurance.

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