Greenville Health System officials say three people have died in connection with a rare mycobacterial infection that has affected surgical patients at Greenville Memorial Hospital.
The hospital first revealed the infections on Friday, saying one patient had died. In an update Thursday, GHS officials said two more patients had succumbed and another infection had been discovered. That brings the total to 15 cases overall.
According to a news release from GHS Thursday, the patients involved had significant underlying medical conditions. Doctors say the infection could have been a contributing factor in the deaths. “We regret that any patient within our care could possibly be affected by this situation,” medical director of quality Robert Mobley said. “Our thoughts are with those involved. Our on-going priority will be to monitor these and other patients for continued safe and effective care.”
GHS says the infections are caused by an atypical mycobacterium, which is found naturally. Mobley said infections from the organism are typically rare and victims usually have an underlying medical condition. He said there are no specific symptoms that can identify an infection, but notes it is not contagious.
However, he said it takes some time for the infection to affect any victims. “Because of the organism’s long incubation period of as much as 60 days, some of the GHS patients did not show signs of infection until months after their surgeries,” he said. “The first-recognized patient tested positive in March 2014. Patients who have tested positive for this organism are being notified.”
Hospital officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control are working to identify the source. But they suspect the problem stems from a specific piece of equipment which has been removed from use. The GHS release did not elaborate.
The hospital said six patients are recovering at home while six others are being treated at Greenville Memorial or other extended-care facilities. Other possible patients are also being notified.