GHS: Another surgical patient tests positive for rare infection - FOX Carolina 21

GHS: Another surgical patient tests positive for rare infection

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Greenville Health System announced Thursday that another heart surgery patient at Greenville Memorial Hospital tested positive for a rare mycobacterial infection, bringing the total number of cases to 15. Three patients with the infection have died, hospital officials said.

Of the surviving 12 patients, hospital officials said six are at home but continuing to receive treatment. The other six are being treated in the hospital or other extended-care facilities.

The infections were caused by an atypical mycobacterium, GHS officials said, which has a long incubation period and may take up to 60 days before patients show signs of infection. The first-recognized patient tested positive in March 2014. Patients who have tested positive for this organism are being notified, officials said. Officials say the infection may have been a contributing factor in the deaths of three infected patients, but officials said those patients also had serious underlying health problems.

"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 GHS. "Our thoughts are with those involved. Our ongoing priority will be to monitor these and other patients for continued safe and effective care."

GHS said doctors are working with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify the source of the infection. A preliminary investigation has led officials to believe that a piece of medical equipment may be responsible for the spread of the mycobacterium. That equipment been removed from use and the operating room primarily associated with that piece of equipment has been temporarily closed as a precaution, officials said.

Mycobacteria are found in the natural environment in water, soil and dust, and do not usually cause adverse health effects when people come into contact with the organisms, GHS officials said.

Officials say this is a rare infection in people and is not contagious.

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