According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a brand of over-the-counter eye drops may be linked to a bacterial infection that left one person dead and three others with permanent vision loss.
The CDC has identified at least 50 people in 11 states with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is a type of bacteria resistant to most antibiotics. So far there have been cases in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Washington.
The agency said it was investigating and a majority of affected people said they had used Preservative-free EzriCare artificial tears before they became infected, according to a Jan. 20 statement.
Of the reported cases, 11 people developed eye infections, including at least three who lost sight in one eye. Other people who got sick had respiratory infections or urinary tract infections, and one person died after the bacteria entered their bloodstream.
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It is not known at this time whether those affected had underlying eye conditions, such as glaucoma or cataracts, which would have made them more sensitive. Symptoms of eye infection include pain, swelling, discharge, redness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and the feeling that something is stuck in the eye.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa the bacteria are commonly found in water, soil, and on the hands of otherwise healthy people. These infections usually occur in hospitals in people with weakened immune systems. This type of bacteria is often resistant to standard antibiotics.
The eye drops in question are labeled as being preservative-free, which means that the product does not contain anything that could inhibit microbiological growth.
It is possible that the drops were contaminated during the manufacturing process or when someone with the bacteria on their skin opened the container.
The CDC discovered the bacteria in the eye drop bottles and is testing to determine if this bacteria matches the strain found in the patients.
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EzriCare Artificial Tears had not been recalled Tuesday evening.
The CDC recommends that clinicians and patients discontinue use of the product until investigation and laboratory analysis are complete.