Greenville Health System believes in transparency and will continue to update the public in connection with the rare mycobacterial infection found in a small number of surgical patients at Greenville Memorial Hospital.
In total, 15 patients have now tested positive for the infection, which includes an additional patient who tested positive this week. Six patients are recovering at home while continuing to receive treatment. Six patients are being treated in the hospital or other extended-care facilities.
The patients involved already had significant underlying medical conditions. Three patients have died, and the infection could have been a contributing factor, said Robert Mobley Jr., M.D., medical director of quality at GHS.
“We regret that any patient within our care could possibly be affected by this situation,” said Mobley. “Our thoughts are with those involved. Our on-going priority will be to monitor these and other patients for continued safe and effective care.”
GHS announced on Friday, June 20, that it had found an unusual infection in 14 surgical patients. The infections were caused by an atypical mycobacterium. Because of the organism’s long incubation period of as much as 60 days, some of the GHS patients did not show signs of infection until months after their surgeries. The first-recognized patient tested positive in March 2014. Patients who have tested positive for this organism are being notified.
GHS, in conjunction with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are working to identify the source of the infection.
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 was also closed temporarily 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.
Mycobacteria are found in the natural environment in water, soil and dust. Most people, when exposed, experience no symptoms or adverse health effects. This is a rare infection in people and is not contagious. People who are already sick with other illnesses and have had surgical procedures are more susceptible to such an infection.
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.