The Centers for Disease Control has launched an investigation into recalled eye drops linked to blindness and deaths.
As of March 14, officials have identified 68 people from 16 states who became infected with VIM-GES-CRPA, a rare strain of extensively drug-resistant bacteria linked to the eye drops. According to the CDC, this strain of bacteria had never been reported in the United States prior to this outbreak.
Three people have died, eight people reported permanent vision loss and four people had to have at least one eyeball surgically removed. Thirty-seven patients were linked to four healthcare facility clusters, the CDC said.
Affected patients are from the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. The infections were reported between May 2022 and February 2023.
Most patients reported using artificial tears. Patients reported over 10 different brands of artificial tears and some patients used multiple brands. According to the CDC, EzriCare Artificial Tears -- a preservative-free, over-the-counter product packaged in multidose bottles -- was the brand most commonly reported and the only common artificial tears product identified across the four healthcare facility clusters.
The CDC said the bacteria has been found inside opened bottles. The agency is now testing other bottles to pinpoint where the contamination occurred and whether it happened during manufacturing.
Last month, recalls were issued for Ezri Care Artificial Tears, Delsam Pharma's Artificial Tears, and Delsam Pharma's Artificial Eye Ointment.
Patients who have used the recalled brands and who have signs or symptoms of an eye infection should seek medical care immediately. Eye infection symptoms may include: yellow, green, or clear discharge from the eye; eye pain or discomfort; redness of the eye or eyelid; feeling of something in your eye; increased sensitivity to light; and blurry vision.