Another person died from a bacterial infection linked to contaminated eye drops, bringing the total number of deaths to four.
In an update this week, health officials said 13 additional patients suffered vision loss as a result of the outbreak, bringing the total number of infections to 81. Four cases were so severe that patients had to have their eyeballs removed.
All patients were infected with a rare strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that is resistant to standard antibiotics and can “dissolve” through the eyes to reach the bloodstream and vital organs.
All patients used EzriCare and Delsam Pharma branded drops, which were manufactured in an Indian factory with multiple infection control failures.
Health authorities are now urging people not to use these eye drops and to dispose of any stashed in bathroom cabinets after products have been pulled from shelves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 81 people in 18 states have been diagnosed with the infection from the bacteria in EzriCare, which has caused four deaths and 14 people who have lost their sight. Four others had their eyeballs removed
Testing showed that unopened dropper bottles, manufactured in India, were crawling with bacteria, while the investigation found that the factories had dirty equipment and did not use sterile gowns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the updated numbers last week, saying the total number of affected states is now 18.
Among the new cases are people who lived in long-term care facilities where other infections were previously reported and others who used a brand of infected eye drops.
Just over half of the new cases were tested after the eye drops were withdrawn in February.
Infections have been reported in: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
But those who have previously come forward to say they have been injured include a Florida firefighter and a 68-year-old grandmother.
Adam DiSaro, a Florida firefighter, earlier sobbed and told CBS that the eye drops had left him blind in one eye.
Describing the onset of the infection, he said, “The redness occurred, the irritation occurred, itched a lot, and it was just not normal.”
It gradually got worse, to the point where I couldn’t even see in a few hours.
When antibiotics failed to relieve the infection, doctors feared he might next lose his eye.
He added, “It was hard and it’s still hard because I’m still out of work – I’ve had five months.”
Other patients included Clara Oliva, 68, a grandmother from Florida, Nancy Muntz, from Ohio, and Renee Martray, from South Carolina.
Adam DiSaro, from Florida, broke down when he revealed how his bacterial infection led to him losing vision in his left eye (pictured)
Other infected patients include grandmother Clara Oliva, 68, also from Florida, who is now registered as legally blind due to the infection.
Two other eye-drop victims were Nancy Muntz, of Ohio, (left) who suffered an ulcer on her cornea, and Renee Marray, of South Carolina, who said she had severe corneal scarring that led to vision loss after using the eye drops.
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are now urging people not to use EzriCare and Delsam eye drops due to concerns about contamination.
Previously sold at stores including Target, CVS, and Walmart.
In its release, the CDC said: “People should stop using EzriCare or Delsam Pharma artificial tears… pending additional information and guidance from [agencies].
‘Patients who used [the eyedrops] Those who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek medical care immediately.
The recalled products are manufactured by Global Pharma, which is headquartered in Chennai, India.
Those who have been called out are EzriCare Artificial Tears, Delsam Pharma Artificial Tears, and Delsam Pharma Artificial Ointment.
An FDA investigation of the plant revealed dirty equipment, flawed and ignored safety protocols, and workers wearing non-sterile gowns.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a type of bacteria that may lurk in water and soil, but prefers moist areas including sinks, toilets, and non-chlorinated hot tubs.
They often cause infection in humans, and are picked up through handling contaminated materials and then failure to clean properly – such as not washing hands.
In one case, a 72-year-old woman lost vision in her left eye after using EzriCare artificial tears for about a week. I was in the hospital for three weeks enduring IV antibiotics, antibiotic drips, and multiple surgical interventions (photo above in the medical journal)
The map above shows countries where eye drop-related infections have been reported
This photo shows Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, which doctors said can ‘dissolve’ through someone’s eyeball and get into the bloodstream
Early warning signs of infection include a yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye, red eyes, increased sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
But doctors warn that the bacteria can ‘dissolve’ through the eyeball and seep into the bloodstream itself.
Once there, it can spread to the rest of the body causing infections of the bones, joints, heart valves and lungs – which can be fatal.
Treatment relies on antibiotics to clear up the bacteria, but in this outbreak, an antibiotic-resistant strain was circulating in the United States that had not previously been detected in the country.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa “is a very dangerous bacterium because it can dissolve through the eye up to the cornea into the bloodstream very quickly,” Dr. Daniel Laroche, a New York-based eye care expert, told USA Today.
People who have diabetes, who are hospitalized, or who take medications that suppress the immune system are at increased risk of infection with the strep.
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