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E. coli outbreak kills 3 at University of Colorado Hospital

It is always a little frightening to have to undergo an invasive medical procedure. Even procedures that are usually safe can have negative outcomes.

This is especially true when a hospital or care provider fails to take appropriate steps to protect patient safety.

Sadly, this happens more frequently than you might realize. It was recently announced that three patients have died and several others were sickened after an outbreak of E. coli at University of Colorado Hospital. The outbreak was traced back to a contaminated medical device.

Why did this happen?

The device in question was a duodenoscope, which is a flexible, lighted tube that is inserted through the mouth. It is most commonly used to reach the upper small intestine, gallbladder or bile ducts.

These devices have many small parts that can pick up dangerous bacteria as they travel through a patient's body. If the instrument isn't cleaned properly, these bacteria can transfer to other patients in subsequent procedures.

This appears to be what happened at University of Colorado Hospital. Multiple deaths from similar situations have also been reported at other hospitals throughout the country.

What should patients do?

In many instances, procedures performed with a duodenoscope can truly be lifesaving. Never make any decisions about what medical care you should or should not receive without talking to your doctor.

Do, however, discuss your safety concerns with your physician. Ask questions about how their instruments are cleaned, and what steps they are taking to prevent infections.

If you or a loved one is injured by a hospital-based infection or any other kind of medical negligence, it is in your best interests to get advice from an attorney. You may be entitled to compensation for losses including medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

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