UIHC warns of bacterium

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Officials at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics have notified 1,500 patients of possible exposure to bacterium during certain major surgeries that took place between Jan. 1, 2012, and Jan. 22.

According to a press release by UIHC, the very low risk of infection has been limited to patients who underwent certain major heart, lung, or liver surgeries within the past four years. The issue only affects those patients who have undergone surgery that involves the use of heart-lung bypass machines with heater-cooler systems.

The bacterium associated with this infection is known as the Non-Tuberculous Mycobacterium. It can be commonly found in nature, including soil, water, and even tap water, as stated by the UIHC news release.

“One of our patients has developed an … infection. While the risk of infection was very low, we know this information may be concerning to our patients,” Theresa Brennan, a cardiologist and chief medical officer at UIHC, said in the news release. “As always, the safety and wellbeing of our patients is our first concern. We are focused on helping them understand the risk and to seek the correct medical evaluation and treatment if they develop symptoms.”

Also, patients who had other surgical procedures — such as stents, pacemakers, defibrillators, ablations, biopsies and other surgeries — are not at risk. The bacterium is not contagious and does not spread from an infected person to other people.

UIHC has a toll-free phone number to assist patients and their families 24 hours a day.

— by Anis Shakirah Mohd Muslimin

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