JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — 3 people have died and at least 4 people have had their eyeballs removed due to a rare bacterial infection linked back to eye drops. The recall includes EzriCare Artificial Tears, Delsam Pharma's Artificial Tears and its Artificial Eye Ointment according to the CDC report.
An ophthalmologist with Florida Eye Specialists said her patients are concerned because these deaths are linked to items that are easily accessible over the counter, but she says there are steps to take to protect yourself.
"Are these type of (artificial) tears okay to take? Or should I even be using tears at all right now? I think those are all really valid questions, you know," said Dr. Samantha Habhab. "It’s kind of scary because now you don’t know what’s safe and what is not safe.”
Dr. Habhab is an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist at Florida Eye Specialists. She has treated similar infections as the ones reported by the CDC, but this one is different.
“What’s unique about this outbreak, this contamination of drops, is that the type of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa - it’s a bacteria we’ve experienced before and have knowledge of treating but this is a multi-drug resistant strain of that bug," Habhab said.
You can do more than simply throwing out the affected products. Even with safe eye drops, keep them sterile. No sharing. Avoid touching the tip with your hands, skin or eye. Throw away expired products.
Contamination can happen at any point in the process from making the eye drops to using them.
“Drops that you put in your eye should not be taken lightly," she said. "I think people tend to think you know, yes it is over the counter product and people use whatever products they find online, so that accessibility makes us think everything is safe.”
Dr. Habhab recommends a few brands that they’ve worked for her patients for years that are over the counter including Systane and Refresh.
Always consult your doctor first.
If you have any symptoms that the CDC is warning about including blurry vision, discharge from your eye, light sensitivity or more, go to your eye doctor or emergency room right away. Habhab said serious eye infections can spread to your blood stream, brain or other organs.