Second update on rare mycobacterial infection

No additional infections or deaths have been reported in connection with the rare mycobacterial infection found in 15 surgical patients at Greenville Memorial Hospital.

GHS has reached out to all 15 patients or families to notify them of the infections.

Patients continue to recuperate at home, hospital or other extended-care facility.

“We regret that any patient within our care could possibly be affected by this situation,” said Robert Mobley Jr., M.D., medical director of quality at Greenville Health System. “Our thoughts are with those involved. Our on-going priority will be to monitor these and other patients for continued safe and effective care.”

“The overwhelming majority of surgical patients treated at Greenville Memorial will not be affected by this rare mycobacterial infection, and we apologize for any fear that we may have caused in the broader community or patients,” said Mobley. “The infection has been associated with only a few specific types of invasive surgery. Nonetheless, we believed it was important to notify the community about the infection out of extreme precaution to ensure their safety and to alert them about possible symptoms.”

Infected patients typically present with symptoms similar to any other type of surgical site infection, such as redness around the incision site, drainage from the surgical incision, and fever or chills. Because of the organism’s long incubation period, symptoms may not appear for up to six weeks after surgery. Patients have been urged to contact their surgeons with any concerns or questions since they would be most familiar with the patient’s health history.

Mycobacteria are found in the natural environment in water, soil and dust. Most people, when exposed, experience no symptoms or adverse health effects. However, people who are already sick with other illnesses and have had surgical procedures are more susceptible to such an infection, as was the case with the patients at Greenville Memorial.

GHS, in conjunction with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are investigating the source of the infection. “We are exceptionally proud of the quality of care we provide and are aggressively investigating this infection,” said Mobley.

Based on the preliminary results of the investigation, authorities believe that the infection may have been related to a piece of equipment, which has now been removed from use. The operating room primarily associated with that piece of equipment remains temporarily closed as a precaution. It is expected to re-open within a few weeks. All other pieces of equipment which may potentially be involved in these cases have also been removed from use.

GHS was able to identify the potential problem and take immediate and appropriate action because of its strong surveillance system, said hospital officials. GHS said it will continue to work closely with outside agencies to investigate the infection.

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