A Snohomish County man died from a blood infection likely linked to over-the-counter eye drops, which are now being recalled by its company after federal health officials confirmed a nationwide outbreak this week.

At least 55 people in 12 states — including California, Colorado, New York and Florida — have reported infections connected to EzriCare Artificial Tears in the last year, according to The Associated Press. Of those, five had permanent vision loss. The Washington man’s death was the only one reported as of Friday.

Should you be worried about infection from eye drops?

The Snohomish County man, who died in September, had used artificial tears and tested positive for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the bacteria appearing in similar outbreak infections across the country, state Department of Health spokesperson Roberto Bonaccorso said Friday. But investigators have not yet confirmed EzriCare’s product specifically is responsible, he added.

Still, Bonaccorso said the state is urging Washingtonians to stop using EzriCare drops until further notice and to contact a medical provider if symptoms of an infection, like pain, swelling redness or blurry vision, emerge.

The state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced investigations into the group of antibiotic-resistant infections earlier this week, following the CDC’s health alert linking the outbreak to the eye drops.

Since then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed the manufacturer, Global Pharma Healthcare, is recalling the product. The decision was based on manufacturing problems, including the lack of testing and proper controls on packaging, according to the FDA.


According to the state, infections were caused by the Pseudomonas bacteria, which is commonly found in water and soil and can infect the eyes, lungs and blood. These types of infections are most common in hospital settings, especially among those with weakened immune systems, the health department said.

While investigators eventually discovered a newer antibiotic that appears to work against the Pseudomonas bacteria, health experts say the outbreak serves as a reminder of the growing dangers of antibiotic resistance, or what happens when bacteria evolves to a point where it’s no longer treatable by antibiotic drugs.

Last summer, the World Health Organization recognized a Seattle-area high school student who directed and edited a short documentary on the trend, explaining that seemingly minor infections could start to kill more and more people in coming years if new drugs aren’t developed.

The outbreak connected to EzriCare eye drops provides a direct example, as investigators found the bacteria driving it are resistant to standard antibiotics.

While public health experts are hoping to quickly spread the word about the EzriCare-related outbreak, eye and infectious-disease specialists around the country are also reminding eye-drop users that most preservative-free drops are completely safe when used correctly.

More information about eye infections and the bacteria is available at the CDC’s website.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this article.