One patient died and 17 others got sick after at least 40 patients were given unsterilized intravenous fluids instead of the sterile saline solution they should have received. Officials aren't sure the unsterilized solution caused the death, which was of a hospice patient, the FDA notes. The fluids that were accidentally given to patients in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, North Carolina, New York, and Colorado were actually "simulated" fluids that are supposed to be used for training purposes, USA Today reports. Symptoms—including fevers, chills, tremors, and headaches—appeared soon after the incorrect fluids were given, so most patients were treated quickly.
It's not clear how the training fluids ended up being given to patients, but it appears that hospitals never should have even received the bags to begin with, the New York Times reports. San Diego-based Wallcur, which manufactures the simulated saline and recalled the bags on Jan. 7 after learning they had been used incorrectly, sells only to educational institutions and distributors. The FDA says the medical facilities involved were "unaware that the IV solution bags were simulation products," although one clinic that received the simulation solution did realize it was the incorrect product and returned it. The FDA hasn't said when the mistakes occurred, but the bags began shipping on May 22 of last year, and the agency says about 50 clinics received them. Wallcur says the symptoms were all linked to orders made through a distributor. (Read more patients stories.)