VA infection issues lead to 13,000 veterans’ tests

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VA infection issues lead to 13,000 veterans’ tests

Plain Dealer – Herman Williams came home safely after fighting in the jungles of Vietnam as a Marine. He was shocked to learn four decades later that his military service had again placed him in jeopardy — this time, because he got a tooth pulled.

Williams is among 13,000 U.S. veterans who have been warned in the last two years that their blood should be tested for potentially fatal infections after possible exposures by improper hygiene practices at five VA hospitals in Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee. This Memorial Day finds the Department of Veterans Affairs under political fire and numerous veterans upset after enduring fear and uncertainty over their health.

“I was scared to death,” Williams said.

One afternoon this winter, Williams received a letter warning that he could have been infected during tooth extraction and other procedures in the dental clinic at the Dayton VA Medical Center. A VA investigation found that a dentist who practiced there for decades repeatedly violated safety measures such as failing to sterilize equipment or change soiled latex gloves, potentially exposing patients to HIV, hepatitis, or other blood-borne diseases.

For two anxious weeks, the 60-year-old Springfield, Ohio, man wondered and worried about himself and his family’s health.

“HIV … that’s something to be afraid of. AIDS is no joke. If you’re positive, then your wife, everybody around you, needs to be tested.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

As with the vast majority of veterans tested, Williams’ results were negative.

So far, VA officials say, tests on nearly 12,000 patients have found eight HIV-positive results and 61 confirmed cases of hepatitis B or C, including three hepatitis cases at Dayton. It’s not known how many of the positives resulted from treatment at VA hospitals or from unrelated causes — of

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