LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The State Health Department says a newly discovered bacteria has infected dozens of cancer patients with a common link, they all received treatments at the Arkansas Cancer Institute (ACI). 

The epidemiologist at the State Health Department (ADH) explained that the bacteria is so new, doctors don’t know exactly what it does; in fact, symptoms are still being sorted through according to ADH. 

“About three months ago we were informed of a cluster of unusual infections in patients from cancer institute.”

Arkansas Department of Health’s Dr. Dirk Haselow talks about a letter he says 155 patients at Arkansas Cancer institute in Pine Bluff received last month.

“These lines weren’t necessarily placed by the cancer institute the common factor is that they are being treated at the cancer institute,” says Dr. Haselow. 

The letter reads in part, patients who had ports accessed at ACI between March 22 and September 11 of this year are considered at risk for a known bacteria but as of last week Dr. Haselow says the CDC notified them it’s not a known bacteria. 

Read the Arkansas Cancer Institute’s full statement here. 

“This is an infection that no one has experience with. We have engaged experts in infectious disease at UAMS as well as experts at CDC,” Dr. Haselow. 

Dr. Haselow explains symptoms aren’t clear. 

“We believe we have identified the worst of this and we’re in sort of the clean up phase,” he says. 

ADH and ACI in a statement both agree 52 patients contacted the bacteria. One that Dr. Haselow says the CDC’s given a temporary name to calling it FVL 2018-32.

“So we don’t believe this is a risk to the public. We don’t believe there’s any ongoing risk to patients newly seen at the ACI.” 

He says symptoms aren’t 100 percent clear.

“This infection is occurring in people who most of them have cancer and have cancer chemo therapy ports,” Dr. Haselow says. 

ACI first wrote us a statement which reads in part, 52 patients with positive screens have been treated or cleared or are in treatment with an expected full recovery. State Health Department says three of those 52 have died. 

“We know that things have gone wrong in the development of their flushes. They have created their own flushes which were suppose were suppose [sic] to be sterile and they were not sterile,” according to Dr. Haselow. 

ADH makes it clear, those three cancer patients did not die as a proven result of the bacteria. 

ACI has sent an additional statement confirming the three deaths and saying the 49 other patients are expected to make a recovery. 

Here is Arkansas Cancer Institute’s second statement: 

“Good Afternoon Price,

Thank you for reporting.  As we discussed over the phone, there were 52 cases that tested positive and 49 of those patients are expected to make a full recovery.  3 have died, but at this time is it unknown if those deaths were specifically caused by this outbreak and not one of the other reasons that very sick cancer patients die from.

The difference between the 155 patients reported to you from the ADH and our number is that we excluded patients that did not have a port (5) and those that had already died, from reasons not specifically related at this time to the outbreak (13).  

I really hope that helps, please reach out to me with any further questions.  I’ll assist however I can. 

Thank you,

Michael Legate, MHSA/ Administrator/Arkansas Cancer Institute”

The health department says it does not believe any new patients will be infected and the at antibiotics appear to be working.