A DEADLY outbreak linked to bacteria-laced eye drops has claimed another life, bringing the total number of deaths to four.
Health officials have now identified a total 81 people who've been affected by the outbreak, which sprung from eye drops contaminated by a rare and 'extremely drug resistant' strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
It's a type of bacteria commonly found in soil and water, which is often the culprit behind blood and lung infections.
Since its last update on the outbreak in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 13 more patients had fallen victim to the rare superbug.
As of May 15, the total number of deaths stood at four, while 14 people have lost their vision in one or both their eyes, and four have had eyeballs surgically removed.
The newly identified victims either resided in long-term care facilities with other people affected or had used contaminated artificial tears.
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The eyedrops in question are sold in US pharmacies, not in the UK.
Health watchdogs pulled EzriCare Artificial Tears – a preservative-free over-the-counter product manufactured in India – from pharmacy shelves in February, in a bid to contain the outbreak.
But a number of pharmaceutical companies have also recalled their products in the wake of the outbreak over fears that they might not be sterile.
Patients who contracted the superbug recalled using up to 10 brands of artificial tears but EzriCare Artificial Tears was the most commonly reported.
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Aside from being found in eyedrops, the rare strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa showed signs of spreading among asymptomatic patients in a long-term care centre in Connecticut, US, and colonising their bodies.
This caused concern among health officials that the super-resistant strain – which had not been found in the country before – could gain a foothold in US health care settings.
So far, the CDS has identified cases of the bug in 18 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
CDC officials said patients who have used eye drops and experience symptoms of infection "should seek medical care immediately."
According to the CDC, eye infection symptoms may include:
- Yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Redness of the eye or eyelid
- Feeling of something in your eye (foreign body sensation)
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision
What is Pseudomonas aeruginosa?
Pseudomonas is a type of bacteria that lives in the environment and is commonly found in soil and water.
Its ultra resistant strain identified in the artificial tears is often the culprit behind blood and lung infections.
People can also be infected by it after surgery.
It can spread in healthcare settings if people are then are exposed to water or soil with Pseudomonas aeruginosa germs, the CDC said.
Resistant strains of the germ can also spread in healthcare settings from one person to another through contaminated hands, equipment, or surfaces.
Patients in hospitals tend to be most at risk, according to the CDC, especially those:
- on breathing machines (ventilators)
- with devices such as catheters
- with wounds from surgery or burns
But infection can be avoided if patients and caregivers wash their hands with soap and water frequently, and patient rooms are cleaned daily.
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People who use reusable contact lenses are four times as likely as those wearing daily disposables to develop a sight-threatening eye infection.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued an alert in March after two cancer medicines were found to contain life-threatening levels of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
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