- The CDC says a rare bacterial infection has been diagnosed in 68 patients in 16 U.S. states, likely caused by preservative-free eye drops
- So far there has been one death while eight other patients have lost their sight; four people were forced to undergo 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
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A Florida grandmother is suing the makers of EzriCare Artificial Tears, a recalled product that she says caused a bacterial infection in her eye, requiring her to have it surgically removed.
Clara Oliva, 68, who is now registered as legally blind, is one of eight patients who have lost their sight following the use of eye drops.
Four of those people who were infected had to undergo surgery to remove their eyes after losing their sight. One person also died from the infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has since issued a warning stating how rare the bacterial infection is, although there have been diagnoses in 68 patients in 16 US states.
Oliva had her right eye removed in September and replaced with a plastic implant.
DISCLAIMER: GRAPHIC CONTENT
According to Oliva’s attorney, Natasha Cortes, she was using EzriCare artificial tears before she developed the infection.
“My client is horribly injured and now legally blind. I am currently investigating other people who have also been injured by this recalled product,” Cortes said.
According to the lawsuit, Oliva started using EzriCare artificial tears in May last year.
Months later, his right eye became “red, swollen and abnormally watery”. She then developed a bacterial infection that caused a corneal ulcer and deterioration of her vision.
“Given the seriousness of the infection in Ms. Oliva’s right eye, the exhaustion of treatment methods and the risk of the infection spreading systematically, creating a life-threatening condition, it has been determined that ‘An enucleation of Ms. Oliva’s right eye was the best option to control the severe antibiotic-resistant infection,’ the suit states.
“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 consequences their product has caused to Ms. Oliva and other consumers.”
His lawyer says the preservative-free nature of the product makes it more vulnerable to bacterial contamination, which can lead to infections such as the one Oliva suffered.
“I’ve always been independent,” Oliva told WPLG. “I have always worked. My life has changed 1000%.’
Cortes also revealed that she is also investigating other people who may have been similarly injured by the recalled product.
“It (the product) does not contain preservatives, which are used to fight bacterial contamination,” Cortes told NBC Miami. “There are probably a lot more people who have had infections who don’t know it, like Ms Oliva was.”
In January, the CDC warned the public to stop using EzriCare artificial tears and Delsam Pharma artificial tears and ointments after open bottles taken from patients were found to contain life-threatening bacteria.
Cases of bacterial infection have been reported in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Washington.
Patients have reported to the CDC that they used the eye drops before they got sick.
The patients suffered from blindness, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections, among other illnesses.
A blood infection suffered by one person led to his eventual death. It is not known if the patient had an underlying condition that put him at increased risk.
Following the outbreak of infections, Global Pharma Healthcare, the maker of both products, issued a voluntary recall.
The drops were previously sold at Walmart and on Amazon, although the products have since been taken down.
Despite this, a spokesperson for EzriCare Artificial Tears said the tests did not definitively link the Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak 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.
“Where possible, we have reached out to customers to advise them against continuing to use the product,” a company representative said. “We also immediately contacted the CDC and FDA and indicated our willingness to cooperate with any requests they made to us.”
The outbreak of the infections raised concerns about the safety of preservative-free eye drops and led to recalls 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 demanding accountability and justice from the product makers.