Arkansas health officials are recommending that patients of an Arkansas dentist who died last year, including some patients of the Ocean Dental clinic in Fayetteville, undergo free state blood tests for possible contamination by an "infectious material."
In a news release on Tuesday (April 9), the Arkansas Department of Health said it is contacting about 100 patients from ages 14 to 22 treated by Dr. William Jarrod Stewart at six dental clinics around the state between Nov. 20, 2011, and Feb. 20, 2012.
Stewart, 40, died February 29, 2012, officials said.
By letter and telephone, the state is contacting patients who received IV medication delivered into a vein at these clinics: Ocean Dental clinics in Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and Little Rock, and Bevans Pediatric Dentistry in Little Rock.
Tiana Newberry, 18, is a former patient. Newberry said she received treatment at the Ocean Dental in Forth Smith.
"I was like 'wow I may have these diseases that he may have given to me that's crazy,'" Newberry said.
Newberry said her younger sister and a few of her cousin's also received treatement by Dr. Stewart.
"It's just scary my whole family may have it," Newberry said.
Newberry plans to get tested this week.
No one treated at the Fort Smith clinic has been identified as being at risk, the news release states.
The state, seeking the blood tests based on information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "has concluded that some of the drugs used by Dr. Stewart may have been contaminated with infectious material," according to the news release.
"We became aware by the Drug Enforcement Administration that viles of medicine under the control of Doctor Stewart, that they may have been tampered with," said Dr. Dirk Haselow with the Health Department.
"Based on that information, we've launched this notification effort to notify a subset of people who might be affected."
Ocean Dental released a statement later in the day, saying state representatives are contacting 84 patients, including 68 Ocean Dental patients, who received IV sedation drugs from Stewart and may have been exposed to infectious diseases.
The patients are being offered free screenings for infectious diseases at local health department locations, according to Ocean Dental's statement.
"Ocean Dental is not aware of any information indicating that Dr. Stewart had any infectious disease," according to the statement.
Dr. Haselow said when a doctor with a controlled substance license dies, the Drug Enforcement Administration take possession of their medicines. Haselow said that's how authorities said they discovered there might be a problem in Arkansas.
"The reason why we are doing this is because single dose vials of a medicine called Meperidine, another name for that is Demerol, had the vial caps taken off and put back on," Haselow said.
"What's in them is supposed to be steril and it brings into question whether it's still steril," Haselow said.
Haselow said the doctor didn't have any infectious disease.
"The general public does not need to be overally concerned about this," Haselow said. "This is not an emergency."
For information, contact the state Department of Health hotline at 1-800-633-1735 from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday or e-mail the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.