Students at a dozen Puget Sound schools could be at risk for HIV and hepatitis B and C due to improperly sterilized dental equipment.
Neighborcare Health notified the guardians of 1,250 kids treated at dental clinics in twelve schools around Seattle and Vashon Island about the risk. Neighborcare Health is the primary health care provider for low-income families at those schools.
The risk of infection is low and the testing is precautionary, according to the King County Department of Health.
Testing will be proved to patients at no cost.
Neighborcare Health said the following schools where dental services are offered were potentially impacted:
Denny International Middle School
Chief Sealth International High School
Van Asselt Elementary
Mercer Middle School
West Seattle Elementary
Highland Park Elementary
Madison Middle School
Beacon Hill International
Bailey Gazert Elementary
McMurray Middle School
A statement from Neighborcare Health read in part:
"We immediately re-trained all school-based dental staff in sterilization processes and policies. We will also reassure that all new and current dental assistants across the Neighborcare Health organization are following sterilization procedures. We continue to review our processes and policies and refine our standards as necessary to ensure that we operate in a manner consistent with our nonprofit mission to provide safe and high-quality care to our patients."
Seattle Public Schools released the following statement on Tuesday:
"Seattle Public Schools takes great care to ensure the safety of our students. The City of Seattle supports dental and health care onsite at many of our schools. Public Health King County selects and manages dental care providers through a rigorous process. While we are deeply concerned, we appreciate that Neighborcare Health has been proactive in informing families and schools about the protocol deficiencies identified in its school-based dental programs. While incidents described by Neighborcare Health pose a low risk, we encourage families to contact Neighborcare for support and free health screenings. Any additional questions should be directed to Neighborcare Health."