Nearly three dozen patients at nursing homes statewide may have developed bloodstream infections from contaminated intravenous products purchased by 54 facilities — six of them on Long Island, according to a New York Department of Health investigation.
One patient’s death is being analyzed as part of the probe, but “the cause of death has not been determined and we cannot say the infection caused the death,” James Plastiras, a spokesman for the health department said in an email Wednesday. He did not say where in New York the death occurred.
The state is investigating 34 infections involving patients in long-term health care facilities. Most of the facilities are in New York City.
State health officials identified the suspect products only as intravenous medications and “flushes,” such as sterile saline that can be infused into an intravenous tube connected to a patient. The saline flushes out — clears — the line of obstructions.
Health department officials did not provide the names of manufacturers or distributors. The state did say the products were obtained from two companies, one of which provides pharmacy services to nursing homes in the greater metropolitan region, and a second that manufactures medical products, including saline flushes.
The state released the names of all 54 facilities that do business with the two companies, but did not identify those associated with the infections.
Mindy Grant, administrator of Meadowbrook Care Center in Freeport, said even though her facility’s name is on the state health department’s list, there have been no infections among her patients.
She said her center uses one of the distributors connected with the contaminated products.
“We have had no problem whatsoever here,” Grant said Wednesday. “We have had no documented cases. I don’t believe there have been any locally to the best of my knowledge.”
Other Long Island facilities listed by the state did not respond to Newsday’s inquiries Wednesday or cited the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — HIPAA, which bars release of patients’ medical information.
Health department data suggests the intravenous products were contaminated with bacteria identified as Burkholderia cepacia. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refer to B. cepacia as a either a group or bacterial complex. The microbes usually are associated with soil or water, according to the CDC. The bacteria are harmless to healthy people but can prove problematic — even deadly — for those with weakened immunity or chronic lung diseases.
In recent years, B. cepacia has become increasingly antibiotic resistant, according to the CDC, which means the bacteria rebuff medications developed to destroy them.
Outside of New York, bloodstream infections caused by B. cepacia — and linked to tainted intravenous products — are under investigation in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“As soon as we learned about the potential contamination we immediately notified the 54 impacted long-term-care facilities that received medications or flushes from one or both of those companies, and advised them to inform their patients who could have been exposed to the bacteria,” Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State Health Commissioner said in a statement.
“We also instructed the facilities to refrain from using certain intravenous products, and have helped them to locate necessary medical supplies to maintain services and protect the health of their patients,” Zucker said.
State officials and investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating how the intravenous products may have become contaminated.
Infections are more difficult to treat when they are caused by drug-resistant microbes, said Dr. Luis Martinez, an associate professor in the department of biomedical science at New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury.
Resistant microbes are circulating worldwide, he said.
Martinez described B. cepacia as a Gram negative bacterium, which means it is structurally complex with a double membrane. Most Gram negative bacteria, such as drug resistant E. coli, he said, are difficult to fight.
Only a handful of antibiotics have been developed in recent years and hardly any for Gram negative bacteria, Martinez said.
THE STATE INVESTIGATES
Fifty-four long-term care facilities in New York may have obtained potentially contaminated products from two companies. There are six on Long Island:
1. Garden Care Center, 135 Franklin St., Franklin Square
2. Grand Pavilion for Rehabilitation and Nursing at Rockville Centre, 41 Maine Ave., Rockville Centre
3. Meadowbrook Care Center 320 West Merrick Rd., Freeport
4. Medford Multicare Center for Living, 3115 Horseblock Rd., Medford
5. Rockville Rehabilitation, 50 Maine Ave., Rockville Centre
6. St. James Rehabilitation & Healthcare, 275 Moriches Rd, St. James
Source: New York State Department of Health