A suspected outbreak of nontuberculous mycobacterium, also known at NTM, may be linked to the deaths of four patients at WellSpan York Hospital in Pennsylvania. Hospital staff estimate that roughly 1,300 open-heart surgery patients may have been exposed the bacteria, eight of whom have so far contracted infection. Since all four of the patients had underlying medical conditions, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is still not officially attributing their deaths to the infection, although the hospital has admitted that it was a contributing factor. This is the second hospital in Pennsylvania in recent months to be associated with a deadly infection.
NTM naturally occurs in water and soil, and sometimes in tap water. It usually does not make people ill, but people with weakened immune systems, like those recovering from surgery, may be at risk. Inhaling the bacteria can result in a serious pulmonary illness that could take up to a year to cure with antibiotics.