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Three infections linked to Colorado dentist accused or reusing needles for over 11 years

stephen stein, dentist, reusing needles

(CBS News) Three possible infections have been linked to embattled Colorado oral surgeon Dr. Stephen Stein, the man accused of reusing needles for more than a decade at his dental offices.

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In a statement on Wednesday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said from its testing it has identified three former patients with infections. It would not identify which diseases the patients had contracted to protect patient confidentiality.

The health department had previously sent letters to 8,000 of Stein's former patients urging them to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C in addition to informing the media of the potential risk to cast a wider net on Stein's former patients.

Despite the positive tests, the health department said it may never trace the source of the infections back to Stein's offices. The department has been working for the Centers for Disease Control on disease surveillance and said it would update the public on confirmed infections the first of every month.

"The CDC and department confirmed 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 statement read.

Colorado health officials had announced in July that Stein may have reused needles on patients from September 1999 through June 2011 at his practice in Highlands Ranch, Colo., as well as from August 2010 to June 2011 at his office in Denver. Stein allegedly re-used syringes and needles during oral and facial surgery procedures, and for intravenous (IV) medications, including for sedation.

The announcement has raised fears for some Colorado residents. CBS Denver reports that several former patients have sought legal council to see if they could collect damages.

"Everyone can sue," attorney Chad Hemmat told CBS Denver. But as for the chances of them collecting damages, Hemmat said, "From the circumstances, as I understand them, somewhere between slim and none." He said the doctor's insurance coverage has probably lapsed and Colorado laws place a cap on what victims can get for pain and suffering.

CBS Denver also reports Stein is part of an ongoing investigation into prescription fraud and other charges.

Stein had agreed to give up his license to practice in June 2011 following an investigation by the state's dental board that found he "deliberately" and "willfully" violated Colorado Dental Practice Law.

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