Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cleanliness and Safety in Health Environments

The recent headlines about the fungal meningitis outbreak have been frightening, to say the least. The fact that so many could have been infected with this disease -- a disease that has proved to be deadly in dozens of cases -- is mind-blowing.

It didn't take long to find the connection between all of the patients who had contracted this disease -- they had all received steroid shots for pain within the past six months. Just as quickly as the connection was made, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the cases were all directly related to tainted drugs.

The public was shocked to find out that their own physicians were unknowingly injecting spores of a deadly fungal disease into various parts of their bodies, (The drugs were used to treat a variety of ailments and depending on the reason for the treatment, the drugs would be injected into the area of the body corresponding to that particular treatment). But the public would get one more shock to their senses when an announcement was made regarding the sanitary conditions of the laboratory that was manufacturing the drugs.

While investigations at the lab (which we will not mention by name in this article) are still ongoing, investigators shocked everyone with the fact that they had found a greyish-black mold of unknown classification growing rampantly in multiple areas of the lab. With the intensity of the growth, investigators were all in agreement that there had to have been years of poor sanitation practices going on to have led to the types of conditions they were seeing.

The fact that "years of poor sanitation practices" could occur in a supposedly "sterile" environment is appalling. The most frightening part about this occurrence is that the "years of poor sanitation" took place while the lab was consistently inspected per the terms of the FDA. Why did inspectors not catch this? Why did it take the sudden and unnecessary deaths of dozens to finally see that there was a problem?

What we are left with, while investigators finish up their collection-and reviewing of the evidence, is an unnerving sense of hesitancy towards the many chemicals, drugs, and even foods that we put into our bodies. Products that have been quality checked and inspected by the same offices and regulators that "checked" the sanitary conditions of the laboratory that produced the tainted drugs linked to the meningitis outbreak.

We must take this sad occurrence and keep it as a reminder that the agencies that inspect and regulate our food and drugs aren't infallible, and contamination can occur in any product; even the products that we believe are 100% safe.

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