How a Small Hospital Mistake Can Cause a Big Infection

surgical instruments.jpgWorkers at Greenville Health System have identified a piece of equipment they believe is responsible for infecting 14 people with atypical mycobacterium during routine surgeries, according to a recent news report from WLTX 19.

The first infection was diagnosed in March 2014, although the surgery that introduced the infection may have happened much earlier because the bacterium has a long incubation period, according to hospital officials. One of the fourteen patients diagnosed with the infection died, although hospital officials believe the cause of death was another underlying medical condition, not the infection itself.

What is an Atypical Microbacterium?

Atypical microbacterium are a group of bacteria in the same family as the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. While atypical microbacteria do not cause tuberculosis, they can cause other infections and illnesses. They can be found in water, soil, some unpasteurized food items like raw milk, and in animals.

How Do People Become Infected with Atypical Microbacteria?

Some people carry the bacteria naturally within their bodies and show no signs of disease. It is also possible to “catch” an atypical microbacterium from a number of sources. A simple failure to observe proper sterilization and hygiene procedures can cause an infection, especially in a hospital or medical setting. It’s also possible to get the infection from food that has not been properly prepared, from exposure to infected animals, or from other sources.

Atypical microbacterium infections are rarely transmitted from person to person. If a loved one has such an infection, however, proper hygiene procedures like regular handwashing are essential.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of an atypical microbacterium infection include coughing, fever, weakness, and weight loss. People who have weakened immune systems, are already ill with another virus or infection, have lung disease or lung damage, or who drink or smoke heavily are at a higher risk of becoming infected than individuals who do not fit into any of these categories.
Because the symptoms of an atypical microbacterial infection can mimic the symptoms of tuberculosis, it is important to ensure the diagnosis is correct. One way doctors attempt to distinguish between tuberculosis and an atypical microbacterium infection is by performing a chest x-ray or other tests.

I Think I Have an Infection. What Should I Do?
First, see your doctor if you haven’t already. Before your appointment, try to recall everything you can about when the symptoms started, how they have changed or stayed the same over time, and what you have done to treat them. Write this information down if writing will help you remember it. The more information your doctor has, the more effectively he or she can treat you.
Next, if you know or suspect that your infection was the result of negligent treatment by another person or party, consider speaking to an experienced injury lawyer.

If you’ve been injured in a hospital, nursing home or other medical facility in South Carolina, don’t wait: call an experienced personal injury lawyer who can answer your questions and help you protect your legal rights. Call us today at 1.800.533.6845 for a free and confidential injury consultation.

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