Entries in Infections (15)


CDC Opens Multi-State Investigation of Infections After Steroid Injections

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating steroid products produced by a Tennessee pharmacy after a number of patients who received them developed skin and soft tissue infections.

So far, the CDC acknowledges 20 reports of people who received the preservative-free form of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) produced by the Main Street Family Pharmacy in Newbern, Tenn., who have contracted infections. So far, the known infections have been reported in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. However, according to pharmacy records, similar products were shipped to facilities in 17 states since December 2012.

The products in question are the same as those that were implicated in fungal meningitis infections that were reported in previous months.  However, the prior meningitis infections were linked to products shipped from an unrelated compound in Massachusetts.

The products have been recalled by the pharmacy. As of now there have been no reported cases of meningitis linked to MPA products from the Main Street Family Pharmacy, and none of the reported infections are considered life-threatening.

There was no information available regarding infections caused by products other than the preservative-free MPA. State and local health departments are also working with the CDC and the FDA on the ongoing investigation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Heart Surgeon Gives Patients Infection When Glove Rips

Jochen Sand/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A heart surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center accidentally gave cardiac infections to five patients because his latex gloves tore during surgery, hospital officials confirmed.

Of the five patients who were diagnosed with endocarditis, or an infection of the heart chamber lining and valves, four of them had to return to the hospital for a second operation, according to a story first published in the Los Angeles Times. The patients survived and are still recovering.

“Because our ultimate goal is to have zero hospital acquired-infections, any hospital-acquired infection at Cedars-Sinai is unacceptable,” a hospital statement read.

“Endocarditis in general is a problem in that it describes an infection inside the heart, and when we have an infection inside the heart, bacteria from the infection is pumped all over,” said Dr. Mark Adelman, the chief of vascular surgery at NYU Langone  Medical Center. “It’s a particularly bad infection.”

Adelman, who has not been involved in the Cedars-Sinai case, said valve replacement infections can be especially problematic because the new valves are artificial and have no blood vessels to carry antibiotics to the infection.

“Usually the valve has to be removed,” he said. “Artificial materials don’t have blood vessels running through them, so there are little cracks and crevices that don’t see much blood flow. They’re difficult to sterilize.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, endocarditis can require a second valve replacement surgery when the infection results in heart failure, results in other organ damage or when blood clots break off into little pieces to cause strokes. Complications can include brain abscesses as well.

Cedars-Sinai called the incident a “very unusual occurrence,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Administrators told the newspaper that the nature of valve replacement surgery can lead to microscopic rips in the surgeon’s gloves because he has to tie more than 100 knots and use thick sutures, both of which put extra stress on the gloves.

“It’s just like tying your shoes a thousand times; it wears a lot on your fingers,” Adelman said, adding that heart surgeons have to sew the heart muscle with strong knots and sutures because the heart is an organ that is constantly moving. “The gloves definitely degrade. They have to be thick enough that they protect from transmitting infections, but then you have to feel tissues.”

Although surgeons will sometimes wear double gloves, it’s not mandated and can sometimes make the surgery more difficult because thick gloves don’t allow surgeons’ fingers to be as sensitive or as nimble, Adelman said.

He said he’s been asked why surgeons scrub their hands if they’re going to wear gloves. The answer is twofold: Surgeons scrub their hands and wear gloves to protect the patient, but they wear the gloves to protect themselves. It’s possible that a patient could spread a disease to a surgeon, too.

The California Department of Public Health has an open investigation at Cedars-Sinai, department spokesman Ralph Montano said. Because the department’s investigation is ongoing, Montano could not elaborate on the details.

Hospitals nationwide reported 529,038 surgical site infections to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010.

News of the endocarditis infections comes less than a month after Cedars-Sinai announced that it reduced surgical site infections by more than 60 percent for colorectal procedures because of new protocols.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Meningitis Outbreak: 331 Cases, 25 Deaths, 7 Joint Infections

Hemera/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Another person has died from fungal meningitis in an outbreak linked to tainted steroid injections, bringing the total to 25 deaths, health officials reported Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has increased the tally of cases to 338: 331 cases of fungal meningitis and seven cases of joint infections. South Carolina became the 18th state affected by the outbreak on Sunday.

For a map of cases by state, click here.

The outbreak has been linked to contaminated vials of methylprednisolone acetate, an injectable steroid used to treat back and joint pain. Sealed vials of the steroid, made by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., contained exserohilum rostratum, a fungus found in soil and plants. It's unclear how the fungus landed in the sealed vials.

The New England Compounding Center has recalled all its products and shut down operations. Calls to the owners were not immediately returned.

As many as 14,000 patients are thought to have received injections of the suspect steroid.

Seventy-six clinics in 23 states that received methylprednisolone acetate from the recalled lots have been instructed to notify all affected patients. The "potentially contaminated injections were given starting May 21, 2012," according to the CDC.

For a full list of clinics receiving the recalled lots of spinal steroid injections, click here.

Meningitis affects the membranous lining of the brain and spinal cord. Early symptoms of fungal meningitis -- including headache, fever, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, weakness or numbness, slurred speech and pain, and redness or swelling at the injection site -- can take more than a month to appear.

The longest duration from the time of injection to the onset of symptoms in the current outbreak is 42 days, according to the CDC's Dr. Benjamin Park.

"But we want to emphasize that we don't know what the longest will be," he added, stressing that patients who received injections of the recalled drug should stay attuned to the subtle symptoms "for months."

Fungal meningitis is diagnosed through a spinal tap, which draws cerebrospinal fluid from the spine that can be inspected for signs of the disease. Once detected, it can be treated with high doses of intravenous antifungal medications.

Unlike bacterial meningitis, fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person and only people who received the steroid injections are thought to be at risk.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Report Says Fish Pedicures May Carry Dangerous Bacteria

Michael Temchine/For The Washington Post via Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- The tiny toothless carp that nibble away dead, calloused skin from the feet of salon customers undergoing fish pedicures may carry bacteria responsible for a variety of dangerous skin and soft tissue infections, British scientists reported today.

The threat has remained largely theoretical ever since a spa in Alexandria, Va., brought the fishy foot treatments to U.S. shores in 2008 as a replacement for the razors typically used to scrape dead skin from calloused toes and heels. More than 6,000 patrons flocked to the spa in its first five months for a fish pedicure. But U.S. and British health officials continue to warn that anyone with open sores or skin cuts, an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or an immune system compromised by AIDS, cancer or advanced age should steer clear of a fish pedicure.

"The most important thing to stress at this point is that the U.K. Health Protection Authority considers the human health risks to be very low, and we would not want your readers to be unduly alarmed by our findings," David W. Verner-Jeffreys, lead author of the new report, told ABC News Tuesday.

Scientists began to get indications of the kinds of microbes that could be bathing fish spa patrons' feet in April 2011, when British authorities investigated a reported bacterial outbreak among 6,000 Garra rufa fish imported from Indonesia to British salons and pedicure spas. Tests revealed the fish had been infected with Streptococcus agalactiae, group B Streptococcus, bacteria that can cause pneumonia and serious infections of the bones, joints and blood in people of all ages and life-threatening infections in newborns.

The bacteria findings appear Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which has been monitoring health effects associated with fish pedicures.

More than 10 states have banned the practice for a variety of reasons, the CDC said, including the inability to sufficiently clean fish pedicure tubs between patrons; the impossibility of disinfecting or sanitizing live fish; regulations that specify fish in a salon must be kept in an aquarium, and a humanitarian justification that to entice the fish to feed on dead human skin, they must be starved, "which might be considered animal cruelty."

In the United States, "there have been no published reports to date regarding illness from fish pedicures," the CDC said in a June 2011 document. "However, fish-free foot-baths in nail salons have been implicated in several outbreaks of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections, including the species Mycobacterium abscessus and M. fortuitum," which have left customers with boils and scars.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


One in Six Cancers Caused by Infection 

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Roughly one in six cancers is caused by an infection, according to a global study highlighting the power of vaccines in cancer prevention.

French researchers pooled data on 27 cancers from 184 countries to calculate the fraction of cases attributable to viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.

“Around 2 million cancer cases each year are caused by infectious agents,” the researchers wrote in their report, published Tuesday in The Lancet Oncology. “Application of existing public health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide.”

Human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, and the ulcer-inducing Helicobacter pylori caused 1.9 million cancers worldwide in 2008, according to the study. HPV and hepatitis B infections are largely preventable through vaccination, and H. pylori can be treated with antibiotics.

“Most of the infection-attributable cases occurred in less-developed countries and were due to preventable or treatable infections,” Goodarz Danaei, assistant professor of global health at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. “Since effective and relatively low-cost vaccines for HPV and [hepatitis B] are available, increasing vaccine coverage should be a priority for health systems in high-burden countries.”

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer as well as cancers of the throat, vagina, vulva, anus and penis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for teenage girls and boys as well as some men and women up to age 26, but few end up getting all the necessary doses.

“Our vaccination program is gaining momentum but very slowly, and one reason is it’s hard to get teenagers in for all three doses,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “The other reason is that because HPV is sexually transmitted, it’s evoked a whole bunch of hullaballoo over whether the vaccine promotes promiscuity. Of course, there’s no evidence to support that at all.”

The hepatitis B vaccine is also given in three doses, but in the first 18 months of life.

“We vaccinate all children against hepatitis B, so their risk of liver cancer down the road will be very much reduced,” said Schaffner. “If we look back 20 years from now, we will see the occurrence of liver cancer dropping precipitously.”

The realization that infections like HPV can trigger cancer is relatively new, earning virologists Harald zur Hausen, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier the Nobel Prize in 2008.

“Every time we make an advance like that, the opportunity exists to make a vaccine that could prevent those kinds of infections and thus prevent another proportion of cancers that occur in our population,” said Schaffner.

But, he added, choosing not to smoke, eating a healthy diet and keeping physically active also reduces the risk of cancer.

“We have to remember that in our country behavioral risk factors still loom large,” he said. “There are a number of strategies we can all employ to reduce our risk of cancer even more.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Encephalitis Survivors: Lonely Battles to Reclaim Lives

Comstock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Becky Dennis delivered one of her best presentations while on a 2008 business trip to India. But within two hours of giving her talk, she couldn't put together a sentence or move her legs.

"I knew the words in my head," recalled Dennis, now 42, "but I didn't know how to communicate them. When I stood up, I didn't know how to walk."

Doctors were at a loss to pinpoint the source of her devastating illness.

Back in the States, Dennis' health declined. She kept losing weight, couldn't taste or smell anything, and was sleeping all the time. She shuttled around to more than a dozen doctors over the next 30 months and was variously diagnosed with stress, a stroke and a complex migraine. Experts also told her that it was all in her head, she said in an interview Tuesday.

Ultimately, Dennis found her way to a vascular neurologist who diagnosed her with encephalitis. "I felt vindicated, validated," she said.

Dennis has become an activist for the nation's community of encephalitis survivors, an overlooked group of formerly healthy, productive men and women.

Encephalitis, which affects an estimated 20,000 Americans a year, most often results from viral and, less frequently, bacterial infections that invade the brain. The resulting illness, which may also stem from autoimmune problems as well as HIV, can range from mild to deadly.

Many encephalitis patients become depressed, dejected and struggle to pay bills while grappling with disorientation, memory loss, and trouble speaking and understanding others, according to a report entitled: "I'm Not the Me I Remember: Fighting Encephalitis," released this week in conjunction with Rare Disease Day 2012 on Wednesday. The report was compiled by Inspire, which provides online communities for a variety of illnesses, and Encephalitis Global Inc., a nonprofit patient advocacy group founded in 2004.

Dennis now sits on the organization's board. While she is happy and vibrant today, after her long and difficult recovery, Dennis still struggles with ongoing deficits, such as trouble concentrating, poor short-term memory and difficulty finding the words she wants to say.

After initial symptoms like headache, fever and vomiting, which easily can be mistaken for the flu, encephalitis may cause confusion, seizures, weakness, paralysis and hallucinations. The symptoms are typically treated with antiviral medications.

But some insect-borne varieties, such as Eastern equine encephalitis, cause death or disabling effects in between 70 to 90 percent of cases, said Dr. H. Gordon Deen, a neurosurgery professor at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., who reviewed the report's findings for Inspire and Encephalitis Global.

Patients like Dennis, who survive the first month of acute illness, frequently fight new battles as they try to resume their daily lives. It's often a struggle, as they deal with residual effects of so-called acquired brain injury, such as those caused by a head injury, stroke, the cutoff of oxygen after cardiac arrest, inadvertent lead or mercury poisoning, or the effects of meningitis -- another form of brain inflammation, Deen said.

Unfortunately for many patients with encephalitis, often doctors haven't seen many cases and don't know the telltale symptoms, and many patients may not find their way to the neurologists and other specialists who do.

And encephalitis can be particularly difficult after it is diagnosed and treated since, after the initial acute illness passes, some patients are left looking normal but suffering from the silent ravages of the infection. Health insurers may deny longer-term rehabilitative care, including comprehensive speech, physical and occupational therapy that can improve recovery.

The new report includes responses from an online survey completed by more than 250 members of the encephalitis support group, slightly more than half of whom were survivors; the rest were caregivers. More than half of the survey group patients said they suffered from lack of concentration; more than a third from speech and language deficits. Of the 150 survey respondents who were working before becoming sick, 43 percent did not return to work; 20 percent were working again but in less demanding jobs and eight percent reported losing a job because of poor performance.

The report includes several workplace tips on organization and managing distractions; they include participating in one conversation at a time, working late at night to avoid interruption, turning off TVs or radios while communicating with fellow workers, and using extensive notes during public speaking.

By the time Dennis found her way to Dr. Guy A. Rordorf, a vascular neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, she tired of hearing that her symptoms were psychosomatic.

Rordorf, however, said she had been infected with encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain inflammation. Her particular type, Japanese encephalitis, likely came from a mosquito bite overseas.

"I'm so thankful I survived," said Dennis, who attributes where she is today to finding the right doctor.

Dennis also says she is grateful for support from her online support group "family," and her real family: husband Gary, a golf pro, and her sister, Angela Martin. "It's great to have a therapist, but also nice to have somebody who knows you to the core."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Purdue Student Powers Through 'Perfect Storm' of Infections

Comstock/Thinkstock(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) -- A Purdue University sophomore is recovering from a near-fatal onslaught of infections that started with an end-of-term bout of mono.

"I had no idea I was that sick," said Rebeka Kasper, 20, her voice still raspy from 21 days spent on a ventilator in the intensive care unit of a northwest Indiana hospital.

Kasper had been refereeing a volleyball game at Purdue when her chest began to ache. The next day, doctors diagnosed her with mononucleosis -- a viral infection common among university students.

"My friends who had mono before said, 'Oh, this is normal,'" Kasper told ABC News. "But after a week I thought, ‘Shouldn't I be getting better?'"

Instead, Kasper felt progressively worse. Busy battling mono, her immune system could not fend off two rare strains of streptococcus that swiftly invaded her body and landed her in toxic shock. Her family rushed her to the local emergency room, where she was quickly transferred to intensive care.

"There were multiple times during her admission that we thought she might die," Dr. Matthew Meyer at Franciscan St. Margaret Health said.

Both Kasper's lungs collapsed from necrotizing pneumonia -- a severe form of the respiratory condition that literally liquefies the lung tissue. Her kidneys also failed, so she relied on a dialysis machine to filter her blood. She even showed signs of heart failure.

"In a way, it was kind of a perfect storm," said Meyer, describing the unlikely combination of infections.

While machines kept Kasper alive, antibiotics slowly cleared the infections from her body. And for three weeks, her parents slept in the hospital waiting room hoping for good news.

"It was so scary," said her mom, Kathy. "But there was no doubt in my mind that she was going to be fine."

For Kasper's twin, Aly, the thought of losing her sister was unbearable. She even felt the pain of her twin's failing heart and lungs, she said.

"I woke up clutching my heart when her blood pressure dropped, and I started to hyperventilate before her lung collapsed," she said. "If she cries, I cry. It's always been like that. This just took it to a new extreme."

As Kasper's organs started to work on their own again, the doctors awoke her from two weeks of sedative-induced slumber.

"I thought everything I dreamt was real," said Kasper. "In one dream, I got a dog, so I was asking where my puppy was. My family thought I was crazy."

A week before Christmas, Kasper's doctors said she could go home.

"She was my Christmas miracle," said Aly Kasper, who frantically decorated the house for her sister's return.

In addition to the two weeks she can't remember, Kasper lost 20 pounds -- weight the 5-foot-9 Purdue equestrian hopes to gain back through physiotherapy and a few more weeks of family meals.

"I kind of want my curves back," she said. "I have no butt muscles, so it hurts to sit!"

Because she missed Thanksgiving, her family made her a special turkey dinner on Christmas Eve before a ham dinner on Christmas Day.

"They're amazing," said Kasper of her family. "I wouldn't be here without them."

"The doctor said if waited another day we wouldn't have her," said Kathy Kasper. "For the rest of her life, if she sneezes, I'm going to have her at the doctor's office."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Whistleblower: Tainted Blood at National Institutes of Health Kills Two

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government should investigate the deaths of two cancer patients at the National Institutes of Health who died after they received transfusions of blood that a military blood bank deemed contaminated, a public advocacy group said Tuesday.

Internal investigations by the NIH and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, both in Bethesda, Md., "are not adequate to remedy this serious problem," Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

In an afternoon interview, Wolfe said he urged the two cabinet secretaries to have their agencies determine how infected blood products could have reached the NIH and ultimately killed patients. Without "an immediate external investigation," other patients at the military hospital, the NIH "and possibly military personnel in the field, may be exposed to these entirely preventable risks," his letter said.

The investigations need to begin "quickly, to make sure they've identified exactly where the problem is, and most important, they've remedied it," Wolfe said.

Wolfe, whose work at the NIH decades ago involved platelets, the blood components that transmitted deadly infections to both patients, called it "inconceivable" that they died from tainted blood, which should never have left the blood bank except as medical waste. "The best way of ensuring that infected blood or blood components (never gets used) is to get rid of them."

In a statement released early Tuesday evening, NIH spokesman John Burklow said the NIH was "deeply saddened by the deaths of two patients who were participants in clinical research at the NIH Clinical Center."

Both patients received platelets "from an outside source that were labeled as suitable for transfusion," but developed bacterial sepsis. After the NIH learned the platelets were contaminated, "the patients and their families were informed, and every effort was made to treat their infections. We're doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again."

In addition to requesting immediate investigations, Wolfe said he also asked that inspectors general at both agencies undertake longer-term investigations to make sure the problem doesn't happen again.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Most Americans Are Washing Up After Using Public Restrooms

Michael Hevesy/The Image Bank(MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis.) -- Americans are becoming more conscientious when it comes to washing their hands after using a public restroom.  According to the third annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey, 90 percent of Americans said they wash after using a public restroom, up from 87 percent in 2009.  The online survey of 1,053 respondents was commissioned by Bradley Corporation of Menomonee Falls, a manufacturer of bathroom furnishings.

The survey also revealed that 89 percent of parents planned to talk to their kids about the importance of hand washing at school.

Bradley's third annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey also revealed:

-- 64 percent of Americans always wet their hands before adding soap.
-- 13 percent always wash their hands for a specific amount of time.
-- 26 percent use a towel, sleeve or other material to open the restroom door after washing their hands.
-- 11 percent admit they are a germaphobe and have a fear of germs or unsanitary surfaces.
-- Stall door handles, restroom entrance doors and faucet handles are the top three surfaces respondents dislike touching the most in a public restroom.
-- 26 percent prefer to stop at a fast food restaurant for a restroom break when taking a car trip. McDonald's was the fast foot outlet mentioned most frequently. Another 25 percent prefer a state rest area.
-- 91 percent of respondents say an unclean restroom gives them a negative perception of a business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Hospital Uniforms Teeming with Germs 

George Doyle/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- We like to think of hospitals as sterile environments. But even there -- it turns out dangerous bacteria are where you may least expect them.
Disease-causing bacteria are lurking in the folds of hospital uniforms, according to a study in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The study found that 63 percent of doctors' coats and nurses' uniforms at Hebrew University's Medical Center in Jerusalem tested positive for pathogenic bacteria.  
These findings proved true even though most participants said they changed their uniforms every day.  
The authors caution they don't know how often germs may have been transferred from the tainted clothing to patients. Even so, they call for daily uniform changes, proper laundering, plastic aprons when bodily fluids may be spread and strict hygiene for hands.
They also suggest wearing short-sleeve coats and even having doctors dispense entirely with their white coats to reduce the risk of spreading disease.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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