On November 23, 2018, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) sent out letters to 1,152 patients informing them of possible exposure to hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV due to improperly sanitized dental equipment.
While the University has not revealed when, by whom, or why the sanitization protocols were breached nor how it was discovered, NSU has notified the at-risk patients and will cover the cost of a blood screening and consultation with a doctor. They've also set-up a hotline (954) 262-1868 to answer patient questions. Doctors will staff the hotline Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the end of the year.
Hepatitis is an infection of the liver. If undetected and treatment is delayed, Hepatitis can become fatal. Hepatitis and HIV viruses spread through contact with blood, open sores, mucous membranes, or other body fluids, sharing needles with an infected person or non-sterilized medical equipment. It's important to see your doctor within two weeks of exposure for a complete physical exam.
- 1.4 million people in the U.S. carry Hepatitis B
- 3.9 million people in the US have Hepatitis C
- Carriers may not have any symptoms, but can still pass on the disease to others
- Hepatitis B and C can cause organ scarring, liver failure, and cancer
- Symptoms may not show until weeks or months after exposure
- Pregnant women can pass the virus to the baby during birth
- An untreated infant can develop long-term liver problems
- Newborns with infected mothers should get vaccinated at birth
- Over 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today
- 1 in 7 of them doesn’t know they are infected
- In 2016, 39,782 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States
- About 1,122,900 adults and adolescents were living with HIV in the U.S. at the end of 2015
- Jaundice: your skin or whites of your eyes have a yellow hue, and urine is brown or orange
- Stomach problems: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
- Pale-colored feces
- Fatigue that lasts weeks or months
- Muscle and Joint Pain
- Dark yellow urine
- Flu-like symptoms
- Thrush or yeast infection on the tongue
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Persistent fevers
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Swollen glands
Why This Case Is Negligence
The ADA states that practicing dental health care professionals and dental laboratories use infection control procedures. These include:
- Items must be visually examined--after a thorough cleaning--for residual contamination before sterilizing
- Instruments must be appropriately wrapped/packaged for heat sterilization after disinfecting and drying
- Single-use devices must be discarded after one use
- Handpieces must be cleaned and heat-sterilized between patient use
- Sterilizers must kept in good repair and not be overloaded
- Sterilizer monitoring must be part of all in-office infection control program
- Dental devices and instruments must be stored so that sterility is not compromised
What to Do
- Visit your doctor ASAP for a complete physical exam.
- Ask for blood tests specific to this situation.
- Ask your doctor about infection-fighting measures such as a vaccine or a shot to boosts immunity.
- Check with your doctor before taking herbal supplements, treatments or other drugs as these may interfere with treatment.
Know your rights.
The CDC and ADA require dental and health facilities to sanitize their instruments properly through heat sterilization. Failure to do this is negligence. You have the legal right to receive health care with the proper sanitation measures in place.
Are you an NSU dental clinic patient? Put our experienced Dental Malpractice team, led by Bonnie Navin to work for you. Protect yourself, we can help. Call us at 800-FL-LEGAL for your free case evaluation.
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