State officials announce outbreak in hospitals

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The investigation is continuing into an outbreak that caused the deaths of nine patients in Alabama hospitals.

The Alabama Department of Public Health and CDC officials are leading the efforts. The outbreak involves 19 patients in six hospitals in the state, five of which are in the Birmingham metro area.   The hospitals are Princeton Baptist Medical Center, Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, Medical West, Prattville Baptist Hospital and Select Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute care hospital that operates within Trinity Medical Center.

The patients affected all received intravenous nutritional supplements that contained a lethal bacteria.  

State Health Officer Don Williamson said the supplements were compounded by a Birmingham pharmacy called Meds IV and have been recalled.  All hospitals have since stopped using the supplements.

"We believe based on everything we understand at this point with the product being discontinued, and hospitals not using product, there is no longer a risk to anyone else," said Williamson, "this does not represent an ongoing health threat."

Infection Control Practitioners at Shelby Baptist Hospital started the investigation after they noticed an unusual number of patients with blood stream infections caused by a specific type of bacteria. Baptist Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Ennis said employees contacted state and federal health agencies, and were able to keep the situation from growing.

"I think the important thing about this situation is that the process worked in a quick fashion," said Dr. Ennis. "The outbreak was identified in a quick fashion, it was contained and resolved by using processes and notification in place for public health surveillance."

Investigators maintain the threat has been contained, and they don't anticipate any additional cases.  Officials at all of the hospitals involved in the investigation said they are fully cooperating and patient safety is a top priority.

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