31 January 2017
A second heart surgery patient in NSW has been confirmed with Mycobacterium chimaera infection following exposure to the rare bacteria from open heart surgery equipment, linked to an international issue.
 
Hospitals around the world have been affected by the equipment which is thought to have been contaminated during manufacture, and is linked to M chimaera infection in more than 70 patients worldwide. The first case in Australia was confirmed in Queensland last year.
 
This second NSW case, a man in his 40s, follows NSW Health’s alerts in August and December 2016 about this matter, and another alert on 23 January this year when NSW Health confirmed the state’s first case, a woman in her 80s, who is recovering.
 
Both cases underwent open heart surgery at the Prince of Wales Hospital, one of four NSW public hospitals that used the affected equipment up to August 2016.
 
NSW Health Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said this latest case was the third in Australia. 
 
NSW Health has communicated with heart surgery patients at the four NSW public hospitals that used the affected equipment – Prince of Wales, St George, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, responding to international advice,” Dr Chant said. “The machines have also been used in a number of NSW private hospitals and in hospitals in other states and territories.
 
“We are particularly watching for further potential cases at Prince of Wales Hospital as experience overseas has shown that when an M chimaera case is reported in a facility it may signal an increased risk to other patients who had heart surgery in that facility.”
 
Dr Chant said when NSW Health was notified last year of the infection risk to patients it replaced or removed from service the machines used in the four public hospitals, issued alerts to the community and doctors, and circulated new national guidelines for the equipment.
 
NSW Health also sent letters to patients who underwent open heart surgery between January 2012 and August 2016 at the four public hospitals, informing patients about the risk, symptoms and what to do if concerned. We also contacted private hospitals in NSW and have been advised that private hospitals in NSW that used affected equipment have also sent letters to their patients, informing them of the risk.
 
“Patients have been asked to watch for M chimaera symptoms – persistent fevers, increasing or unusual shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss.”
 
Dr Chant said NSW Health had provided updated advice to all GPs and relevant specialists and was urging clinicians to go to the NSW Health website for the latest information: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/M-chimaera-and-surgery-alert.aspx.
 
Patients seeking further details can contact the following information lines:
  • Sydney Children’s Hospital Network – 02 9845 3442 (8.00am – 5.00pm, excluding weekends and public holidays)
  • South Eastern Sydney Local Health District –1800 875 526 (8.00am – 5.00pm until Friday 17 February 2017).
 
For further information please see the NSW Health Fact Sheet.