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Health Officials Investigate Nursing Home Blood Infections Linked to Contaminated Intravenous Drugs

Oct 7, 2016

New York Department of Health officials are investigating nursing home bloodstream infections that may have been caused by contaminated intravenous products. Bloodstream infections have been reported in nearly three dozen nursing home residents state wide. The reportedly tainted products were purchased by 54 long-term care facilities; six are on Long Island and most are in New York City.

According to Newsday, officials are analyzing a patient death as part of the investigation. However, health department spokesman James Plastiras said "the cause of death has not been determined and we cannot say the infection caused the death," Newsday reports. The location of the death was not disclosed. The probe is looking into 34 blood stream infections among patients in nursing homes.

Health officials did not provide details about the products, only describing them as intravenous medications and "flushes", saline solutions that remove obstructions from intravenous tubes. The manufacturers and distributors were also not identified. Officials only noted that the products were provided by two companies.

A list of 54 facilities that purchase products from these companies have been released, but officials did not specify which nursing homes were linked to blood infections.

The IV products were likely tainted with Burkholderia cepacia, a group of bacteria that is normally harmless in healthy individuals. In people who have weakened immune systems, however, it can lead to serious illness and even death. The bacterial complex is normally found in soil or water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, B. cepacia has developed antibiotic resistance in recent years.

New York is not the only state investigating B. cepacia bloodstream infections linked to contaminated IV products. Similar probes are underway in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Newsday reports. The cause of the contamination is being investigated.

"As soon as we learned about the potential contamination we immediately notified the 54 impacted long-term-care [facilities] that received medications or flushes from one or both of those companies, and advised them to inform their patients who could have been exposed to the bacteria," said NYS State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in a statement.

"We also instructed the facilities to refrain from using certain intravenous products, and have helped them to locate necessary medical supplies to maintain services and protect the health of their patients," Zucker stated.

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