- CDC says a rare bacterial infection has been diagnosed in 68 patients across 16 US states likely caused by preservative-free eyedrops
- So far there has been one death while another eight patients have lost vision; 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 that she frequently used before the infection
- WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
A Florida grandmother is suing the makers of EzriCare Artificial Tears, a recalled product she alleges caused her to develop a bacterial infection in her eye, forcing it to be surgically removed.
Clara Oliva, 68, who is now registered as legally blind, is one of eight patients who have lost their vision as a result of using the eye drops.
Four of those individuals who became infected ended up requiring surgery to remove their eyes having lost vision. One person also died as a result of the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have since issued a warning noting how the rare bacterial infection is, although there have been diagnoses in 68 patients across 16 US 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 developing 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 of 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 of her vision.
‘Given the severity of the infection in Mrs. Oliva’s right eye, the exhaustion of treatment methods, and the risk of the infection spreading systematically creating a life-threatening condition, it was determined that an enucleation of Mrs. Oliva’s right eye was the best option to control the severe antibiotic-resistant infection,’ the suit declares.
‘On September 1, 2022, Mrs. Oliva’s right eye was surgically removed and replaced with a plastic implant. Given her decreased visual acuity of 20/200 in her remaining left eye, Mrs. Oliva is now legally blind.’
‘These companies must be held accountable for the devastating consequences their product has caused Ms. Oliva and other consumers.’
Her lawyer claims the preservative-free nature of the product makes it more vulnerable to bacterial contamination, which can lead to infections such as the one experienced by Oliva.
‘I’ve always been independent,’ said Oliva to 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] doesn’t contain preservatives, which are used to fight bacterial contamination,’ Cortes told NBC Miami. ‘There’s likely many more people who have suffered infections who are unaware, like 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 opened bottles taken from patients 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 CDC that they had used the eyedrops before they fell ill.
Patients suffered blindness, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections, among other illnesses.
A blood infection suffered by one person led to their eventual death. It is unclear if the patient suffered an underlying condition that put them at an 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 pulled.
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 is most common in hospitals – where bacteria find a way to survive in hyper-sterilized environments.
‘To the greatest extent possible, we have been contacting customers to advise them against continued use of the product,’ a company rep stated. ‘We also immediately reached out to both CDC and FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they have of us.’
The outbreak of the infections has raised concerns about the safety of preservative-free eyedrops and led to the recall of the affected products.
The CDC has urged people to stop using them to prevent the spread of the rare strain of the bacteria, but now families are calling for accountability and justice from the product manufacturers.