15 hospitalizations linked to contaminated hand sanitizer

U.S. hospitals have treated at least 15 patients for methanol poisoning associated with contaminated hand sanitizers, the CDC stated in a report this week.

All cases were in Arizona and New Mexico and were reported between May 1 and June 30. 

Of the 15, six patients developed seizures, four died and three were discharged with visual impairment, the CDC said. 

"Consumers who have been exposed to alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing methanol should stop using them immediately and seek immediate medical attention if they experience any concerning symptoms," the CDC report said.

The report suggested that clinicians who suspect patient methanol poisoning get medical management advice from a regional poison center. 

The FDA initially warned in June that nine types of hand sanitizer may contain methanol — a chemical that's mostly used to make fuel and antifreeze and is poisonous to humans — and warned the public not to use them. Substantial methanol exposure can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision, permanent blindness, seizures, coma, permanent damage to the nervous system or death, the agency said. 

Hand sanitizers have been in heavy demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In early July, the FDA expanded the list of potentially toxic hand sanitizers to 55 and said some users had died from methanol poisoning. One of the deaths was associated with Blumen hand sanitizer, distributed by 4e Global. 

On July 28, the FDA placed some brands of hand sanitizer on import alert, as an increasing number were found to contain methanol. An import alert allows the FDA to detain products coming into the U.S. to stop them from being distributed. 

The FDA has been working with manufacturers to recall hand sanitizer products and has encouraged retailers and distributors to stop selling hand sanitizers on its list of products that may contain methanol. The agency has also been urging consumers not to use hand sanitizers from any manufacturers on the list, even if the specific product isn't named, because they're still at risk of methanol contamination. 

The do-not-use list of hand sanitizers includes 135 types as of Aug. 7. The list includes hand sanitizers that have been tested by the FDA and shown to contain methanol; those that are being recalled; and those that have been made at the same facility as products that contained methanol. 

Since the FDA's initial warning June 23, it has reported that 15 companies have recalled their hand sanitizers.

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