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Petitioning Senator Dianne Feinstein and 8 others

America STOP the SPREAD of Healthcare Caused EYE Infections (HCI's) and EKC!

Each year hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. and millions of people worldwide contract preventable eye infections, particularly viral ones including  a serious viral infection called Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis (EKC) at their local eye care clinic through inadequate or failed medical office sterilization techniques.These are called healthcare acquired infections (HAIs) or Healthcare caused infections (HCI's). Generally speaking, HAIs are responsible for the deaths of 75,000 to 100,000 Americans a year.

In January 2012, Fred S.  a 75 year old father, husband, and grandfather died less than 6 months after acquiring EKC from his  Southern California Ophthalmologist's office. His wife also contracted the same EKC infection nearly debilitating her vision exactly 7 days after seeing the same ophthalmologist on the same day. The doctor did not wipe between patients. The doctor did not clean her equipment.

In 2014, Rez S. , an 81 year old low vision mother, wife, and grandmother, died more than a year and a half after acquiring EKC from the same Southern California Ophthalmologist's office. Her family member also contracted the same EKC infection nearly debilitating her vision exactly 7 days after seeing the same ophthalmologist on the same day. The doctor did not wipe between patients.The doctor did not clean her equipment.

In 2013, the CDC reported outbreaks of EKC in preemie infants in the NICU because of eye examinations. 

In 2014, celebrity Bob Costas acquired EKC in New York prior to  the Olympics and was disabled from work for some time.

In October 2016, the U.S. Virgin Islands was pounded by a sudden EKC outbreak in more than 30 confirmed patients from a single ophthalmology office.

In the 1970's, celebrity actress  Karen Allen famously known for her role in Animal House and later philanthropy, acquired EKC in New York and suffered corneal scars for many years.

These are just a few of the stories of what happens to people in the U.S. alone all the time. Most people don't associate the infection with their eye exam because of the 7-14 day incubation. In these Southern California cases, the source was obvious because of the exact date of onset after seeing the eye doctor for a routine eye exam. 

 American Safe Sight Foundation (ASF Safesight.org) believes that "Clean Care is the Best Care," however generally speaking, these basic hygiene steps are not part of current ophthalmology practice. For example, a simple two-second alcohol wipe may be used to "sterilize" the same tonometer tip that is placed in your eye as the next 20 patients who all sit in the same chair. Alcohol does not kill most viruses and is ineffective against threats like EKC, Hepatitis virus, and HIV. In another example, the same bottle of eye drops are used on hundreds of patients in an eye office without any disinfection or disposable single use units. Although other medical and surgical specialties have stringent sterilization protocol, practically speaking ophthalmology remains in the dark ages with respect to properly sterilizing, and thereby protecting, our most precious gift - our vision.


According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, “In each [EKC] outbreak, health-care–associated transmission appeared to occur via ophthalmologic examination" (Reference CDC MMWR Aug 2013)


Quick and Easy Steps to Eye Health Acquired Infection (HAI) Prevention:
- Use disposable tip or non-contact tonometry devices

- Use single use eye drops

- Use gloves

- Use medical-grade disinfectants to wipe all semi-critical surfaces

- Recognize that alcohol wipes are not an acceptable antiviral cleaner

- Make EKC a legally reportable disease in the U.S.

 

EKC is a highly contagious, incurable, viral infection of the eye that may permanently damage the eye. The single biggest risk factor for contracting EKC is seeing any eye doctor and having an eye exam with improperly sanitized equipment within 7-14 days before the onset of an eye infection. Even premature infants with no other risk factors have contracted the EKC infection through eye exams in neonatal intensive care units.

In view of the potential for transmission of viruses (e.g., Herpes simplex virus [HSV], adenovirus 8, or HIV) 184 by tonometer tips, the CDC recommends that the tonometer tips be wiped clean and disinfected for 5-10 minutes with either 3% hydrogen peroxide, 5000 ppm chlorine, 70% ethyl alcohol, or 70% isopropyl alcohol 95. However, more recent data suggests that 3% hydrogen peroxide and 70% isopropyl alcohol are not effective against adenovirus capable of causing epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis and similar viruses and should not be used for disinfecting applanation tonometers. Reference Citations 49, 185, 186.

No man, woman, or child should ever fear going into their eye doctor for a healthy annual check and and coming out with a sight-threatening eye infection. Therefore, enhancing the best practices in the delivery of eye care in the U.S. and the rest of the world is entirely about preventing these diseases through proper sterilization and good clean care at eye doctor offices and clinics.

EKC is caused by several strains of incurable viruses. There is no uniformly effective treatment, vaccine, or antiviral medications available for EKC.

A large number of people contract EKC from ophthalmologist or optometrist’s office after use of eye examination equipment, particularly during eye pressure (glaucoma) checks due to improper disinfection techniques.

It is very important for individuals infected with EKC to take hygienic measures.

EKC is now a worldwide epidemic. The U.S. laws do not require ophthalmologists to report the disease in their offices. Japan and Germany have made EKC a mandatorily reportable disease. EKC virus is not adequately disinfected by 70% isopropyl alcohol, which many eye clinics routinely use. EKC can infect anyone, at any age. It can debilitate the youngest in neonatal intensive care units and the elderly and low-vision patients.

EKC spread can be easily and simply prevented by proper hygiene, use of disposable supplies, single use eye droppers in clinics instead of the stock bottle use on multiple patients, medical grade disinfection at offices, and routine use of universal precautions and gloves at all eye care doctors and ophthalmology surgery centers.

This petition was delivered to:
  • Senator
    Dianne Feinstein
  • Dr. Yagi
    California Department of Public Health
  • Mathew Zahn MD
    Orange County Department of Public Health
  • President
    Barack Obama
  • State Representative
    Donald Wagner
  • Donald Trump
  • Eileen Schneider MD
    Centers For Disease Control
  • Russell N. Van Gelder M.D., Ph.D.
    American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • AAO President
    American Academy of Optomtery


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