Most hospitals aren't required to report potentially deadly waterborne infection

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The number of patients sickened by an infection stemming from contaminated water sources is unknown because only two state health agencies require hospitals to report them, according to NBC affiliate WCNC.

Nontuberculosis mycobacteria can be acquired from any water source, such as a sink or shower. Those with weak immune systems are most susceptible to the bacteria, which can infect airways and lung tissue, according to the American Lung Association

Though NTM infections have occurred at a dozen hospitals across the U.S., with at least 30 people dying in recent years, only Tennessee and Oregon health agencies require healthcare organizations to report them. Some experts think state regulators aren't doing enough to keep patients safe.

"A patient could have NTM, and we wouldn't even know it, because we're not 'looking for it,'" Lawrence Muscarella, PhD, hospital safety expert and president of LFM Health Care Solutions, told WCNC. "I think NTM should be reportable across the country, not just in a handful of states."

The Tennessee Department of Health has reported 51 NTM infections at healthcare facilities since 2017. The Oregon Health Authority documented at least 30 NTM infections every year from 2014-17. 

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