Another person has died from a bacterial infection linked to contaminated eyedrops, bringing the total fatality count to four.
In an update this week, health officials said 13 more patients had suffered vision loss as a result of the outbreak, bringing the total infection count to 81. Four cases were so severe patients had to have their eyeballs removed.
All the patients had caught a rare strain of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa that is resistant to standard antibiotics and can ‘melt’ through the eyes to reach the bloodstream and vital organs in the body.
All of the patients had used EzriCare and Delsam Pharma-branded drops, which were made at an Indian factory with several infection control failings.
Health authorities are now urging people not to use these eyedrops and throw away any hiding in bathroom cabinets after pulling the products from shelves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 81 people in 18 states were diagnosed with infections from the bacteria in EzriCare, which has caused four deaths and 14 people to lose their vision. Another four have had their eyeballs removed
Testing showed that unopened bottles of the drops, manufactured in India, were crawling with the bacteria, while an investigation found factories had dirty equipment and did not use sterilized gowns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed the updated figures last week, saying that the total number of affected states was now 18.
Among the new cases were people who lived in long-term care facilities where other infections had previously been reported and others who used a brand of affected eyedrops.
Just over half of the new cases were only tested after the eyedrops were recalled in February.
Infections have been reported in: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
But those who have previously come forward to say they were infected include a fireman from Florida and a 68-year-old grandmother.
Adam Di Sarro, the firefighter from Florida, previously told CBS sobbing that the eyedrops had left him blind in one eye.
Describing the start of the infection, he said: ‘The redness came on, the irritation came on, a lot of itching, and it was abnormal.
‘It just progressively got worse, to the point where I couldn’t even see within a few hours.’
When antibiotics failed to ease the infection, doctors feared he would then lose his eye.
‘That was hard and still is hard because I’m still not at work — going on five months,’ he added.
Other patients include Clara Oliva, 68, a grandmother from Florida, Nancy Montz, from Ohio, and Renee Martray, from South Carolina.
Adam Di Sarro, from Florida, broke down as he revealed how the bacterial infection had led him to lose vision in his left eye (pictured)
Other patients affected include grandmother Clara Oliva, 68, also from Florida, who is now registered as being legally blind because of the infection
Two other victims of the eyedrops are Nancy Montz, from Ohio, (left) who suffered a corneal ulcer, and Renee Martray, from South Carolina, who said she had severe corneal scarring that had resulted in vision loss after using the eyedrops
The CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are now urging people not to use the EzriCare and Delsam eyedrops over contamination concerns.
They had previously been sold in shops including Target, CVS and Walmart.
In its release, the CDC said: ‘People should stop using EzriCare or Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears… pending additional information and guidance from [agencies].
‘Patients who have used [the eyedrops] and who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek medical care immediately.’
The products recalled were manufactured by Global Pharma, which is based in Chennai, India.
Those recalled were EzriCare Artificial Tears, Delsam Pharma Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma Artificial Ointment.
An FDA investigation of the factory revealed dirty equipment, faulty and ignored safety protocols and workers wearing non-sterile gowns.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a type of bacteria that may lurk in the water and soil, but prefers moist areas including sinks, toilets and inadequately chlorinated hot tubs.
It often causes infections in humans, and is picked up through handling contaminated material and then failing to clean properly — such as not washing hands.
In one case, a 72-year-old woman lost vision in her left eye after using EzriCare artificial tears for about a week. She was in the hospital for three weeks enduring IV antibiotics, antibiotic eye drops and multiple surgical interventions (Patient is pictured above in medical journal)
The above map shows the states where cases of infection linked to the eyedrops have been reported
This image shows the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria, which doctors said could ‘melt’ through someone’s eyeball to reach the bloodstream
Early warning signs of an infection include yellow, green or clear discharge from the eye, redness of the eye, increased sensitivity to light and blurred vision.
But doctors warn the bacteria could then ‘melt’ through the eyeball and trickle into the bloodstream itself.
Once there, it can travel to the rest of the body sparking infections at the bones and joints, heart valves and in the lungs — which can be fatal.
Treatment relies on antibiotics to remove the bacteria, but in this outbreak, an antibiotic-resistant strain was spreading in the United States that had not previously been detected in the country.
Dr Daniel Laroche, an eyecare expert in New York, previously told USA Today that Pseudomonas aeruginosa ‘is a very dangerous bacteria because it could melt through the eye up to the cornea into the bloodstream pretty quickly’.
People who have diabetes, are hospitalized or take drugs that suppress the immune system are more at risk from the bacteria.