- CDC says rare bacterial infection has been diagnosed in 68 patients in 16 US states likely caused by preservative-free eye drops
- So far, one death has occurred, while another eight patients have lost their sight; four people have been forced to undergo the surgical removal of infected eyes
- Florida grandmother Clara Oliva is now suing the makers of EzriCare Artificial Tears, a recalled product she used frequently before the infection
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
A Florida grandmother is suing the makers of EzriCare Artificial Tears, a recalled product she says caused a bacterial infection in her eye, requiring it to be surgically removed.
Clara Oliva, 68, who is now registered as legally blind, is one of eight patients who have lost their sight as a result of using the eye drops.
Four of those individuals who became infected ended up having to have surgery to remove their eyes because they had lost their sight. One person also died from the effects of the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has since issued an alert noting how rare the bacterial infection is, even though diagnoses have been made in 68 patients in 16 U.S. states.
Oliva had her right eye removed in September and replaced with a plastic implant.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
According to Oliva’s attorney, Natasha Cortes, she was using EzriCare Artificial Tears before she got the infection.
“My client is horribly injured and now legally blind. I am currently investigating others similarly injured by this recalled product,” Cortes stated.
According to the lawsuit, Oliva started using EzriCare Artificial Tears in May last year.
Months later, her right eye became “red, swollen and abnormally watery.” She then developed a bacterial infection that caused a corneal ulcer and a deterioration in her vision.
“Given the severity of the infection in Ms. Oliva’s right eye, the exhaustion of treatment options, and the risk of the infection spreading systematically and causing a life-threatening condition, it was determined that an enucleation of Ms. Oliva’s right eye was the best option. option to control the severe antibiotic-resistant infection,” the suit said.
“On September 1, 2022, Ms. Oliva’s right eye was surgically removed and replaced with a plastic implant. Given her reduced visual acuity of 20/200 in her remaining left eye, Ms. Oliva is now legally blind.”
“These companies must be held accountable for the devastating impact their product has caused on Ms. Oliva and other consumers.”
Her attorney claims the product contains no preservatives, making it more vulnerable to bacterial contamination, which can lead to infections like Oliva’s.
“I’ve always been independent,” Oliva told WPLG. ‘I’ve always worked. My life has changed 1000%.’
Cortes also revealed that she is also investigating other individuals who may have been similarly injured by the recalled product.
‘It [the product] contains no preservatives, which are used to fight bacterial contamination,” Cortes told NBC Miami. “There are probably a lot more people who have contracted infections that aren’t aware, as Ms. Oliva was.”
In January, the CDC warned the public to stop using EzriCare Artificial Tears and Delsam Pharma’s Artificial Tears and Ointment after patients’ opened bottles were found to contain the potentially deadly bacteria.
Cases of the bacterial infection have been reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Washington.
Patients reported to the GGD that they had used the eye drops before they became ill.
Patients suffered from blindness, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections, among other things.
A blood infection from which one person suffered eventually led to death. It’s unclear if the patient had an underlying condition that put them at increased risk.
Following the outbreak of the infections, Global Pharma Healthcare, the manufacturer of both products, issued a voluntary recall.
The drops were previously sold at Walmart and on Amazon, though the products have since been removed.
Despite this, a spokesperson for EzriCare Artificial Tears stated that testing has not definitively linked the outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa to their products.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa causes infections in the blood and lungs, the CDC reports.
Like many other superbugs, it’s most common in hospitals – where bacteria find a way to survive in hyper-sterilized environments.
“As far as possible, we have contacted customers to advise them not to continue using the product,” said a company representative. “We also immediately contacted both CDC and FDA and expressed our willingness to cooperate with any requests they may have from us.”
The outbreak of the infections has raised concerns about the safety of preservative-free eye drops and led to the recall of the affected products.
The CDC has been urging people to stop using it to prevent the spread of the rare strain of bacteria, but now families are calling for accountability and justice from the product manufacturers.
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