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'What are we gonna do?' More than 1,000 Seattle students potentially exposed to HIV, hepatitis

caption: Denny International in south west Seattle is one of a dozen schools where students were accidentally exposed.
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Denny International in south west Seattle is one of a dozen schools where students were accidentally exposed.

South Park resident Paulina Lopez said she was alarmed to find out that her 7th grade son may have been exposed to deadly viruses at his school’s dental clinic.

“What are we going to do?” she said, fearing the worst.

Seattle-King County health officials estimate some 1,250 students in Seattle and Vashon Island were potentially exposed to HIV and hepatitis through dental clinics based in 12 schools in the Puget Sound area.

The clinics were led by Neighborcare Health, a low-income healthcare provider.

In a letter, Neighborcare states that some dental equipment may not have been properly sterilized, leaving students with a chance of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

On Wednesday, Lopez met with other parents at Concord International Elementary for a regularly scheduled meeting. There, she broke the news to some parents who hadn’t yet heard about the health scare.

“Most of the moms that were there — Spanish speaking — weren’t even aware.”

Lopez also heard of cases where students read the letter from Neighborcare for their parents.

“As they were translating, they were crying,” she said.

Lopez is meeting with other parents in the South Park area to help make sure the word gets out to non-English speaking families. The parents are also coordinating testing.

Neighborcare says that while the risk of infection is low, they will be paying for tests, and will follow up with individuals if further action is needed.

“They’re telling you to go and get tested,” Lopez said. “How about if it’s positive? Many of our kids don’t have insurance.”

Neighborcare Letter
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The affected schools include 10 Seattle schools and 2 schools on Vashon Island:

Denny International Middle School

Chief Sealth International High School

Van Asselt Elementary

Mercer Middle School

Roxhill Elementary

West Seattle Elementary

Highland Park Elementary

Madison Middle School

Beacon Hill International

Bailey Gazert Elementary Chautauqua Elementary

McMurray Middle School

Correction 4/5/2019: This story has been edited to note that the students were potentially exposed.

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