Three people have died and another four have had to undergo operations to remove the eyeball due to bacterial infections related to some contaminated eye drops with bacteria, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Aside from deaths and surgically removed eyeballs, eight other people have been blinded.
The federal agency has identified at least 68 patients in 16 states across the country who have been affected by a rare strain of the bacteria. Pseudomonas aeruginosawhich presents a high resistance to most antibiotics and medicines.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the US Government Department of Health, is working with the CDC and local agencies to investigate this multi-state outbreak. Most of those affected said they had used eye drops before suffering the medical problems. The most cited brand was EzriCare. These drops have already been withdrawn from the market, along with artificial tears and artificial eye ointment from the pharmaceutical company Delsam Pharma.
Clara Oliva, a Hispanic woman among those affected: “I am no longer the same”
One of those affected has been Clara Oliva, a 68-year-old Hispanic woman resident of Miramar, Florida. The affected, she declared for Telemundo News that her life changed radically after using EzriCare brand eye drops. She developed a bacterial infection in her right eye and progressively lost her sight, until hers had to be removed.
“I’m not the same as before. I can’t work anymore, I can’t drive anymore, only here at the corner, to the supermarket. I can no longer play with my grandchildren as before, because stability does not allow it,” Oliva said from her home. For her part, her lawyer announced her intention to sue the manufacturers of EzriCare Artificial Tears for leaving her “horribly injured and now legally blind.”
Another case was that of an anonymous 72-year-old woman who lost her vision as a result of the drops. Her doctor, Dr. Ahmed Omar, told CNN: “She started noticing blurred vision in her left eye for a few days” and then “a yellow discharge on the pillow”. And he concluded: “It was then that she began to notice that the appearance of his eye had changed.”
Associated adverse effects include hospitalization, death from bloodstream infection (when bacteria get into the blood) and permanent vision loss due to eye infections. The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa is usually found in water, soil, and on the hands of healthy people. Infections usually occur in hospitals and affect people with weakened immune systems. This drug-resistant strain it had never been seen in the country prior to this outbreak.
Not all patients suffered from ocular infections: others presented respiratory or urinary tract infections. The CDC first alerted the public to the danger of this bacterium in a statement dated January 20.
The CDC recommends seeking medical help for U.S. citizens experiencing these symptoms of an eye infection:
- Yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Redness of the eye or eyelid
- Sensation of having something in the eye (foreign body sensation)
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision