New Zealand’s status as a developing country was confirmed today with the news that 2,500 school children were exposed to cross contamination risks at the Pukekohe Intermediate School dental clinic in South Auckland:
Incredibly, an equipment malfunction had gone un-noticed for over four months, according to a report on NewsHub.co.nz:
It’s feared 2500 children who visited a dental clinic in south Auckland could have been exposed to viral infections including hepatitis and HIV.
It was discovered late last week that equipment at Pukekohe Intermediate Dental Clinic was not functioning correctly.
Those who attended the clinic between September 13 and January 23 could be at risk and will be screened, according to Counties Manukau Health.
Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV testing will be offered to children who had a procedure involving compressed air, a drill, extraction or suction…
Furthermore, after the defect was discovered and the clinic closed, but it was almost a week until the public was informed because it was “not deemed urgent”
Parents not informed, found out on social media
The parent of a three year old boy treated at the clinic only found out about the risk to her child through social media source
The mother of a three-year-old boy who had two small fillings at the clinic a week before it closed received a phone call about having to reschedule her son’s second appointment due to an equipment malfunction just days ago. “They phoned to say the appointment had to be moved, but they didn’t say why.”
She said she was disgusted to find out through a news article posted to Facebook and couldn’t believe parents hadn’t been notified.
“The way parents had to find out is wrong. It’s late, and nothing is open. My son is asleep – what do we do? Do we just have to worry for the next 12 hours? We don’t even know what we’re dealing with.” source
Other parents say their family’s children “visited this dentist recently and they haven’t been contacted in any way for support”. source
Counties Manukau Health chief medical officer Dr Gloria Johnson confirmed the issue was with a faulty connection.
She said the connection fused together the suction and compressed air systems, which are ordinarily separated, and could have exposed children to unsterilised water.
This means any saliva or blood sucked from one child’s mouth could have then been blown into another child’s mouth using compressed air…. source
Equipment malfunction unlikely
Those with knowledge of dental equipment say the problem is likely to be that someone “screwed up.”
The water coming out of the hand pieces and triplex (water spray thing) should be somewhere between tap water (if the chair is plumbed) to distilled water (from separate water supply). There is no real problem with either (providing the source is normal), but obviously you can manage water quality (mostly relevant for mineral build-up issues) better with bottles.
What seems to have happened here is that the air compressor somehow shared a line with the suction system and the concern is that this compressed air, which runs the hand pieces and generates the pressure to spray water, has tainted the water supply.
Presumably the tech installing / maintaining the chair/suction/compressor screwed up. source
Hep B endemic in New Zealand
According to the New Zealand society of gastroenterology:
Hepatitis B is endemic in New Zealand with an estimated 90,000 individuals with chronic infection. Chronic hepatitis B remains the leading and leading cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (75%), liver-related mortality (63%) and liver transplantation (32%) in this country.
New Zealand has a low overall prevalence of chronic Hepatitis B (0.9% of the population) but a higher prevalence among Maori, Pacific Island and Asian ethnic groups. source
The scientific literature deems the hepatitis B virus to be in “high prevalence in the New Zealand population”.
Despite it being introduced to infant vaccines in the 1980s, the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B in New Zealand’s Tongan population is over 10% and vaccine coverage among Tongan children is around 53%. The critical proportion of immunisation coverage for elimination of the virus is estimated to be 73% source.
The risk of exposure to the HIV virus is far less than it is for Hepatitis B
224 people were diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand in 2015 — a similarly high figure to the previous year — according to data released today by the AIDS Epidemiology Group based at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) were the largest group affected. Of all those diagnosed 153 (68%) were MSM and 42 (19%) were heterosexually infected men and women. There were four people infected thorough injecting drug use, and one child was infected overseas having being been born to a woman with undiagnosed HIV. For most of the remainder the means of infection was not reported… source
Readers are reminded that the facility to sue for loss caused by personal injury does not exist in New Zealand.