4 Dead from Suspected Bacterial Infection at Pennsylvania Hospital

On Monday, October 26, Wellspan York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania, issued a statement detailing that approximately 1,300 patients may have been exposed to a bacterial infection during open-heart surgery. Nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) has been found in eight of those patients and NTM may be linked to four deaths.

 When NTM is inhaled, an infection may occur if the individual has a compromised immune system. According to the American Lung Association, “In some people, the organism infects the airways and lung tissue leading to disease.” 

Due to the underlying medical conditions of the four people who have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not said for sure if bacterial infection is the definite cause of death. However, it has been noted that the infection may be a possible factor. 

The Pennsylvania hospital issued the statement, warning all patients who had open-heart surgery at the hospital between October 1, 2011 and July 24, 2015 of the possible exposure risk. Keith Knoll, senior vice president of Wellspan Health stated in an interview, “We know that the news of this potential risk of infection may be concerning to our open-heart patients, and we sincerely regret any distress that it may create for those patients and their families. 

The statement came after a study was published in July of this year in Clinical Infectious Diseases, discussing the potential for mycobacterium chimaera exposure from the heater-cooler “connected to the cardiopulmonary bypass” units used in surgery. The study caught the attention of the CDC who has been collaborating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the investigation of the open-heart surgery heater-cooler units continues.

The CDC issued an Interim Practical Guidance covering the NTM infections, stating, “The most important action to protect patients will be to remove contaminated heater-coolers from operating rooms, and ensure that those in service are correctly maintained.”

Wellspan York Hospital is the second hospital in Pennsylvania to have possibly exposed patients to a life-threatening infection this year. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center had to stop all organ transplants after three patients died following exposure to a fungal infection in September.

4DeadSuspectedBacterialInfectionPennsylvaniaHospital_640x359Are hospitals even safe anymore? This year has seen more than a few incidences of exposure to serious infections in patients recovering or undergoing surgery. In the case of Wellspan Health, open-heart surgery is dangerous enough, without a higher risk of infection from equipment utilized during surgery.

One way to stay out of the hospital and steer clear of heart problems is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet, and to continue exercising on the reg. Keeping your heart healthy — not to mention all of your other vital organs — should be at the top of your daily to-do list. Heart disease is, after all, the number one killer of American adults.

The American Heart Association recommends that you quit smoking, go easy on the alcohol, eat more whole grains (we suggest gluten free), enjoy more fruits and vegetables, eliminate sugar, and aim for approximately 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Avoid the hospital by avoiding an unhealthy lifestyle — starting today. 

What do you do to steer clear of the hospital?

—Stephen Seifert


Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life. 



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