Twelve children hospitalized for heart surgery contract rare bacterial infection, with more at risk, thanks to unclean surgical device

Hospitals are often seen as the paragon of healthcare; when you or your child go to a hospital, there is a certain level of trust involved. But what happens when that implicit trust is violated? Over a dozen parents and children at a hospital in New Orleans learned the hard way that hospitals aren’t always places where sick people are made better. Sadly, sometimes hospitals are where sick people get made sicker.

Twelve children were diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection after undergoing heart surgeries at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans — and at least another 55 people are at risk, though there could be even more than that. Daily Mail reports that a contaminated medical device was the source of the outbreak. The bacteria, mycobacterium abcessus, is known to cause respiratory infections, pulmonary diseases, tissue infections and in some circumstances, the sick-making microbes can even cause central nervous system infections. To make matters worse, mycobacterium abcessus is notoriously difficult to remedy. While it is treatable, the Centers for Disease Control say the bacteria is “challenging” due to its resistance to treatment.

Several different types of therapy will be required to treat the bacteria — and the duration of treatment can last for months. “Challenging,” indeed. And who knows what kind of other infectious diseases people may come into contact with if they need to stay in a hospital for even just a portion of that time; Legionnaire’s disease comes to mind. Just this past summer, several people contracted Legionnaire’s disease at a hospital–two died. Worse, the same hospital had an outbreak of the disease in 2016, too.

John Heaton, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans commented about the outbreak of mycobacterium abcessus, stating, “able to jump on this pretty quickly.” “Pretty quickly” might be an overstatement; twelve children had to fall ill before staff at the hospital discovered that dirty temperature regulation devices were the source of illness. The hospital was able to trace the infection back to a specific temperature regulation device used in a single operating room, but for many, there are more questions to be had — and certainly, more risks to be concerned about.

In addition to the twelve children identified, the hospital has had to contact 55 other patients or their families to let them know about the contamination and possible risk of infection. A hotline for the families of children who’d undergone heart surgery in the last few months even had to be set up.

The Children’s Hospital currently claims that the contamination of the temperature regulation devices  came from tap water but one parent says they received a letter boasting a slightly different explanation. Rachel Pagnan’s daughter had heart surgery in January 2015  and told Mail Online she received a letter in December 2016 which claimed the contamination was caused by the product’s manufacturer. “This is what most of us heart parents were worried about!” Pagnan exclaimed.

In October 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reported that over half a million patients are made vulnerable to contamination when undergoing heart surgery — and it all stems from the same type of medical device. Last year’s outbreak involved a different type of bacteria, but it’s no wonder why “heart parents” worry. Disease outbreaks at hospitals are not exactly uncommon — though they certainly want you to think otherwise.  [Related: Keep up with the latest medical madness at]

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