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Image: Sandra Kothari Shanoop Kothari Harrison Kothari
Michael Stravato
Sandra and Shanoop Kothari of Houston, Texas, filed the first lawsuit in February 2011 alleging that contaminated alcohol prep wipes led to an infection that killed their 2-year-old son, Harrison. Harry died last year of bacterial meningitis caused by bacillus cereus, a rare bacterium cited as the reason for a recall of millions of alcohol prep wipes.
Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
msnbc.com
updated 7/6/2011 8:57:17 PM ET 2011-07-07T00:57:17

An ongoing msnbc.com investigation has tracked a global recall of potentially contaminated alcohol wipes and other medical products blamed for deaths and life-threatening infections across the U.S.

Beginning in February 2011, msnbc.com reporter JoNel Aleccia was the first to obtain and verify documents that revealed that federal Food and Drug Administration officials knew of problems at H&P Industries Inc. and the Triad Group of Hartland, Wis., plant for years, but took no action to force the firms to correct problems with contamination and sterilization.

Msnbc.com's investigation showed that only the quick action of a Colorado hospital confirmed the presence of rare Bacillus cereus bacteria in both the H&P Industries wipes and in potentially life-threatening infections in children, eventually forcing the FDA to urge a recall of the products. The series revealed that the potentially contaminated products were used in a quarter of the nation's Veterans Health Administration medical centers and in the agency's online prescription service.

Msnbc.com's investigation was cited by two senators who questioned the FDA's response to the crisis. Following the probe, the FDA sent U.S. marshals to seize $6 million in H&P Industries products, and, later, to seek an injunction forcing the firms to halt production and distribution of potentially tainted products. In the end, the FDA admitted weak oversight of the situation.

Meanwhile, msnbc.com has documented what victims say are the tragic impacts of the contaminated products, including a newborn twin boy in Washington state left brain-damaged, an elderly Tennessee man who suffered a disabling heart infection and a 2-year-old Houston boy who died after developing a rare infection caused by Bacillus cereus, the same type of bacteria found in the wipes.

This ongoing investigation, which now includes more than 25 stories, has exposed a significant threat to public health, revealed lax oversight by goverment agencies charged with protection, chronicled the effects of the problems on vulnerable victims and served as a warning to millions of consumers who might have been exposed to tainted wipes in hospitals, clinics and private homes.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

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