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Bacterial Infection Outbreak at Nursing Homes and Hospitals Linked To Contaminated Syringes

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Nursing home residents and hospital patients in at least five states have become infected with a specific strain of bacterium linked to a saline solution recall announced by federal health officials last month, resulting in several hospitalizations and potentially contributing to the death of at least six individuals. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update this week on a multistate outbreak of Burkholderia cepacia bloodstream infections, which have infected at least 151 individuals at 58 nursing homes and medical centers nationwide.

The outbreak is linked to a Nurse Assist prefilled saline flush syringe recall announced last month by the FDA.

New Jersey has been the hardest hit by the outbreak. According to local news sources and the CDC, at least 13 new cases across New Jersey’s Atlantic County and Ocean County have been reported since the recall, bringing the state’s total of infected patients to 52.

Investigations by health officials have revealed that many long-term care or nursing home facilities used the contaminated saline solution syringes prior to the recall. Currently, Maryland, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all have confirmed cases of B. Cepacia believed to be linked to the syringes.

The recall involved syringes that are prepackaged saline flushes used in a healthcare setting to administer intravenous treatments, clearing central or arterial lines of any medicine or perishable liquids that could pose a sterilization hazard.

Manufacturing company Nurse Assist Inc., in conjunction with the FDA, recalled any and all unexpired lots of the Nurse Assist I.V. Flush Syringe products that were distributed to customers and distributors between February 16, 2016 and September 30, 2016. The recalled products were sold in 3ml sizes with Product Code 1203, 5ml sizes with Product Code 1205, 10ml sizes with Product Code 1210, and 10ml sizes with Product Code 1210-BP. Product Numbers 1203, 1205, and 1210 were packaged 30 syringes to an inner carton and six inner cartons in a case totaling 180 syringes. Product Number 1210-BP was packaged with 400 syringes to a case.

Burkholderia cepacia is a group of complex bacteria that can be found in soil and water and is often resistant to many common antibiotics, posing an increased risk to those with weakened immune systems such as children and the elderly.

Although the bacterial infection poses no significant threat to healthy individuals, those with respiratory infections, specifically cystic fibrosis and chronic lung disease may be more susceptible to the bacteria and require immediate medical treatment.

Common symptoms of the bloodstream infection include fevers, chills, clammy skin, shortness of breath, and abnormal heart rates among other side effects. Healthcare facilities known to have received and administered the recalled saline solutions to patients are being asked to monitor patients for side effects.

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