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CDC warns of outbreak associated with EzriCare Artificial Tears

CDC warns of outbreak associated with EzriCare Artificial Tears
CDC warns of outbreak associated with EzriCare Artificial Tears 02:30

NEW YORK -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising Americans to stop using a particular brand of over-the-counter eye drops.

Health officials say it could be linked to multiple drug-resistant infections, with some of those patients here in the Tri-State Area.

People who use EzriCare Artificial Tears are being asked to stop after an outbreak of infections in at least 55 people in 12 states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The CDC says one person in Washington state has died, and five others suffered permanent vision loss.

According to the CDC, the infections were caused by a drug-resistant bacteria.

"Pseudomonas aeruginosa. And this particular strain has not been seen in the U.S. prior to this outbreak," said Dr. Maroya Spalding Walters, who is leading the CDC investigation.

"That seems pretty significant," CBS2's Alice Gainer said.

"It is, and it's part of what helped us identify that this was a large outbreak across multiple different states, was that this is such an unusual strain," Spalding Walters said.

EzriCare is based in Lakewood, New Jersey, but the eye drop product itself is manufactured in India by a different company.

Most of the people with these infections reported using different brands of artificial tears, but the majority reported using EzriCare.

Investigators detected bacteria in open EzriCare bottles, but further testing is being done on unopened bottles.

The eye drops are preservative-free to keep from irritating dry eyes.

"But unfortunately, these things can happen, I guess, if you don't have the preservatives to keep the bacteria levels low," said Dr. Neha Shaik, an ophthalmologist at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.

Some patients developed infections in their blood, urine and lungs.

"So your eyes are actually connected to the nose through a lacrimal duct, we call it, and then from there, can go into your nose, nasal passages, throat and sometimes into your bloodstream as well," Shaik said.

Symptoms of an eye infection can include discharge, eye pain or discomfort, redness of the eye or eyelid, the feeling of something in the eye, as well as increased sensitivity to light or blurry vision.

EzriCare says it's "not aware of any testing that definitively links" the outbreak to its artificial tears, but it's stopped distribution and sale of the eye drops and is contacting customers.

Global Pharma, which manufactures the product, says it's recalling it and "fully cooperating with U.S. federal authorities, and is continuing to investigate this matter, but thus far we have not determined whether our manufacturing facility is the source of the contamination."

While resistant to standard antibiotics, the CDC says testing with a newer antibiotic named cefiderocol does seem to work.

Thirty-five patients are linked to four health care facility clusters. Individual exposure is being investigated. Some may have been secondary exposure.

Patients with symptoms should get medical care, but for those who have used the product and have no signs of infection, the CDC is not recommending testing.

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