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Federal health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of bacteria that has been tied to eye drops.
There have already been 68 infections across 16 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eight people reported suffering vision loss and four people had eyeballs removed to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly infection, according to the CDC.
Dr. Abha Amin, an ophthalmologist and section chief of complex anterior segment surgery at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, told FOX Business that the strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa that's been detected in the recalled eye drops has never been found in the U.S. before.
EYE DROP RECALL: FDA FINDS STERILIZATION ISSUES AT GLOBAL HEALTH PHARMA FACILITY
Last month, federal investigators concluded that Global Pharma Healthcare, which manufactured EzriCare and Delsam Pharma Artificial Tears products, did not follow proper sterilization or cleaning procedures at its facility in India.
Both products were recalled in February due to potential microbial contamination.
The CDC reported that the outbreak strain – VIM-GES-CRPA – was detected in opened EzriCare bottles from multiple lots. The bottles were collected from patients with and without eye infections and from two states, the CDC said.
People who have or are using the recalled brands should discard them immediately, Amin said.
What is the bacteria?
New York City-based emergency room physician Dr. Robert Glatter told FOX Business that the drug-resistant pseudomonas bacteria "is quite difficult to control and eliminate, especially in health care settings where it can thrive in sinks and drains, in wet and moist environments, along with patients who develop dangerous bloodstream infections."
Should patients be worried about other eye treatments?
Despite this recall, Amin said it's still important for patients to "continue necessary and prescribed eye treatments, such as those for glaucoma or post-op medications."
EYE DROPS RECALLED OVER NON-STERILITY: FDA
As a measure of precaution for using any eye drops, Glatter said that "it’s vital to prevent contaminating the drops with your fingers."
Amin added that it's important to avoid touching the tip of the dropper to anything, including your hands or eyes. Patients should also follow the instructions on the frequency of use and timing of drops. More importantly, the drops shouldn't be used all at once, according to Amin.
It's also critical to throw out the drops if they are past the expiration date that's printed on the medical packaging, Glatter added.
Eye infection symptoms to watch out for
If patients did use the recalled drops, Glatter said it's important to remain alert for symptoms that include yellow, green or even clear discharge from the eye, eye pain or discomfort, and redness of the eyelid or eye.
Other symptoms to be wary of include increased blurry vision and light sensitivity, Glatter added.
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"It’s important to understand that a severe eye infection can actually feel quite similar to a less aggressive or threatening eye condition such as dry eye disease (DED) and other inflammatory or autoimmune diseases involving the eye itself," Glatter said.
If patients experience any eye infection symptoms, they should see an ophthalmologist immediately, he added.
"For the most part, it appears that cases have largely been contained, thanks to aggressive media attention and product recalls," Glatter said.
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