Patients of Lehigh Valley dentist told to get tested for HIV, hepatitis

MT. BETHEL, Pa. (WPVI) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health is warning patients of a Northampton County dentist that they could have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis B and C.

An investigation found Cotturo Dental Associates in Mt. Bethel did not properly clean, disinfect or sterilize devices leading to the risk of infection.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli says he's unaware of anyone becoming ill so far so as of Wednesday this case is only under preliminary review.

"If we think more is warranted we open a full-blown criminal investigation," said Morganelli. "At that point, we would assign one of our investigators to it to determine whether if not charges are appropriate. But we're not there yet."

In a statement, PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said, in part, "The inadequate infection control procedures at this practice could create the potential for harm, so we are recommending patients get tested."

The health department has since delivered a cease and desist letter and Dr. Cotturo responded by voluntarily surrendering his license.

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Warning for Pa. patients: Possible HIV, hepatitis exposure. Tamala Edwards reports during Action News Mornings on November 7, 2018.

People who live nearby are stunned.

"You'd think you can trust going to a dentist's office or a doctor's office, but then when something like this happens it makes you think 'Wow! that could've been me,'" said Robert Jones of Mt. Bethel.

Meanwhile, Morganelli says the Department of Health deserves a lot of credit for uncovering this case.

"It's a matter of huge public concern," he said. "And whenever people are at risk for serious illnesses that can be transmitted like HIV and Hepatitis B and C you know we certainly need to take a look at it."

Dr. Palmer Cuttoro surrendered his license and the dental office is now closed.

The Department of Health recommends anyone who visited the office in the past 11 years - between Jan. 1, 2007, and Sept. 14, 2018 - get tested.

They say this includes current and former patients who had any dental procedures performed at the office.
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