MANCHESTER — State health officials say they needed to investigate the potential health risks to patients of a dentist whose license was suspended because of inadequate sterilization procedures, rather than announcing the findings early and possibly causing a public health scare.
Beth Daly, chief of infectious disease surveillance for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said investigators acted promptly and within the 24 hours required after the state Board of Dentistry and Attorney General’s office closed the Manchester office of Dr. Nicholas Marshall Jr.
There were no reports of actual infections connected to Marshall’s practice and preliminary findings indicated the risk was low before it was announced Monday.
“We needed to conduct own public health investigation,” Daly said Tuesday.
Daly said the risk remained low on Tuesday. If the department found evidence of an infection coming from the practice or other evidence that heightened the concern, another alert would follow, she said.
“There were no confirmed illnesses associated with this situation,” she said. “We want to make sure the message is clear.”
Daly said investigators spoke with Marshall last week and announced on Monday that patients of Marshall’s check with their physicians about being tested for blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV. Because the alert was based on the sterilization practices used at Marshall’s office and not an actual infection, Daly emphasized that the risk remained low on Tuesday, but could not be declared zero.
Dr. Jose Montero, the state’s director of public health, said Monday that the risk was also considered to be low because Marshall’s specialized in orthodontics, which does not normally lead to bleeding. Still, the Health Department asked to hear from patients while continuing the investigation and had received about 20 phone calls by Tuesday afternoon, Daly said.
People who were concerned about the potential exposure could call (603) 271-9461 or 800-852-3345, ext. 9461.
Marshall was also recently indicted on 160 counts of Medicaid fraud and 29 counts of falsifying medical records provided to the grand jury in the case.
The dental board and the state Attorney General’s Office conducted a surprise inspection at Marshall’s Manchester office on April 24. His license was suspended last Monday and the public notice of the potential public health risk was issued a week later.