At least 68 people across the US are now known to have been infected by contaminated eyedrops — killing three, blinding eight and leaving four others needing an eyeball surgically removed.
The over-the-counter drops by EzriCare and Delsam Phama, first recalled in February, have now been linked to cases in 16 states across the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an updated alert Tuesday of a tally from March 14, meaning it could now be higher.
That includes cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, the CDC said. At least 37 were “linked to four healthcare facility clusters,” the CDC said, without detailing where they are.
“Three people have died and there have been 8 reports of vision loss and 4 reports of enucleation (surgical removal of eyeball),” the agency said, again without detailing where the most serious cases were.
The toll was up from one death and five cases of vision loss reported last month.
The drops — manufactured in India — are blamed for a strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa that “had never been reported in the United States prior to this outbreak,” the CDC said.
It is also “extensively drug-resistant,” the center warned.
The CDC noted that “patients reported over 10 different brands of artificial tears and some patients used multiple brands” — but EzriCare Artificial Tears “was the brand most commonly reported.”
“This was the only common artificial tears product identified across the four healthcare facility clusters,” the warning stated.
“Patients and healthcare providers should immediately stop the use of EzriCare Artificial Tears,” the agency said.
“Patients who have used EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s artificial tears and who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek medical care immediately.”
Users “not experiencing any signs or symptoms of infection” do not need to seek medical care, but should look out for symptoms including blurred vision, redness or feeling like something is in the eye as well as “yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye.”
Although the CDC did not detail individual cases, a lawyer for Florida grandmother Clara Oliva said she is suing the makers of EzriCare Artificial Tears for leaving her “horribly injured and now legally blind.”
Two anonymous cases were also highlighted by JAMA Ophthalmology on Wednesday.
One was a 72-year-old woman who lost vision in her left eye after using EzriCare artificial tears for dry eyes, according to her physician, Dr. Ahmed Omar at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.
“She started noticing some blurry vision in her left eye for a few days” and then “a yellow discharge on her pillow,” Omar said, according to CNN.
“And that’s when she started noticing that the appearance of her eye had changed.”
She went to ER where doctors discovered a large ulcer on her left cornea, nearly covering her whole eye, which was ultimately blinded despite treatment and surgery.
The other case was a man, also 72, who had no other eye problems than dryness when he used EzriCare artificial tears, CNN noted.
went to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami after a day of severe pain and decreased vision, CNN noted — with the problems worsening as antibiotics failed to help.
“He now has what is called corneal blindness because he’s 20/400 and has a corneal scar, but with corneal transplantation, he might have a better prognosis,” stated the eye institute’s Dr. Guillermo Amescua.
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