The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) revealed that up to 3,000 individuals may have been exposed to dangerous bacteria since 2012 during open-heart surgery at the hospital.
The Greenville News reports that includes an unknown number in the Upstate.
An MUSC spokeswoman said the infection was caused by potentially contaminated equipment used to regulate blood and organ temperature during open-heart surgeries. The infections are related to a heater-cooler piece of equipment.
Hospital officials said they have no evidence that anyone has been infected to date. However federal guidelines require MUSC to call patients about the potential for infection.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the contamination may have been from Mycobacterium chimaera and that it could have happened during the manufacturing process of the equipment. The CDC has been investigating the potental contamination nationwide. It confirmed some patients outside the MUSC system have died since it discovered the contamination, although it cannot say with certainty that it is the cause.
The CDC estimates a very low actual infection rate among those who used the Stöckert 3T heater-cooler devices. “In hospitals where at least one infection has been identified, the risk of a patient getting an infection from the bacteria was between about 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000,” the agency stated.
CDC officials said that symptoms of being infected with M.chimaera include night sweats, muscle aches, weight loss, fatigue, fever or other symptoms associated with the infection. They advise anyone who has had open-heart surgery and is experiencing any of those symptoms to seek immediate medical attention.
Mycobacterium is very common in the environment and are not normally dangerous to human skin or even if swallowed. However, it can cause severe infection in a medical setting should it get into body cavities during surgery.