12 children diagnosed with rare surgical infection after heart surgery in a New Orleans hospital

At least 12 child patients have contracted a rare infection after undergoing heart surgery at a New Orleans hospital – and officials have contacted 55 others that may have been infected too.

The bacteria, mycobacterium abcessus, can lead to respiratory infections and pulmonary diseases, tissue infections and, in extreme cases, infections of the central nervous system.

Symptoms of an infection include swelling, redness and drainage at the incision site and fever.

The children had all undergone cardiac surgery at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, and are now undergoing treatment there to fight the infection. Though 12 cases have been identified, officials warn dozens more could be sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the bacteria ‘challenging,’ because it is resistant to treatment, requires multiple kinds of therapies, and is treated over a relatively long period of time, up to several months.

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