Three former patients of suspended Denver-area oral surgeon Dr. Stephen Stein have tested positive for infection according to state public officials.
Just last month the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent out 8,000 letters to former patients of Dr. Stein encouraging them to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C after learning that he'd reused needles and syringes.
Since that notification, the department says it has identified three people who have tested positive for some infection, but also cautions that their infection may not be positively linked to the unsafe injection practices in Dr. Stein's offices.
"It would be difficult if not impossible to conclude definitively whether the dental practice was the actual source of transmission for any of these positive test results," the department confirmed Wednesday.
Dr. Stein was previously featured in Health and Wellness magazine commending him for "not just highly skilled dental care, but an overall quality experience," as well as being featured in 9News for replacing a hockey player's teeth. According to the article, Dr. Stein began his dental implant practice after a sailing accident as a young dental student caused him to fall which damaged his jaw.
"I didn't think I was treated very well. I healed OK, but I thought there's just so much more that goes into it than just treating the injury," Dr. Stein then told the magazine.
The state's department of public health spokeswoman Jan Stapleman said to 9News that the investigation into Dr. Stein's practice began in April, saying that it took time to investigate the case thoroughly. Dr. Stein was suspended by the Colorado Board of Dental Examiners with an agreement to stop practicing in June 2011, but the department has been unable to locate him.
According to the Denver Post, the board declined to say why they voted to suspend Dr. Stein, but said that it was for a different reason that came to light before the infection risks.
Denver Police and district attorney officials say the investigation is ongoing.
Reusing needles and syringes in patients' intravenous lines is in violation of standard medical protocol.
"This practice has been shown to transmit infections," the department said in a statement.
Dr. Stein is also being investigated for prescription fraud.
The state's department of public health is asking for health providers to report any tests positive for HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C to their county health department or the state health department and to specify if the patient was tested as a result of unsafe injection practices at Stein Oral and Facial Surgery. HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are reportable conditions in Colorado, meaning they must be reported to public health authorities.
For more information, the department has asked for people to call the Colorado Help Line at 1-877-462-2911 or visit Colorado Department of Public Health. The department has also created a FAQ page for this case, view the FAQ here.