Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Orange County supervisors agreed Tuesday to spend $150,000 to help Children’s Hospital of Orange County provide long-term treatments for dozens of children affected by a bacterial outbreak at an Anaheim dental clinic.

As of Friday, county healthcare officials have logged 43 cases among children ranging from 3 to 9 years old, with 15 confirmed to have contracted a “mycobacterial” dental infection and 28 in the “probable” category.

All 43 youngsters were treated by Children’s Dental Group of Anaheim between March 14 and Aug. 5, and all have been hospitalized at some point.

CHOC nurses and physicians need the money for multiple antibiotics and staff to administer the drugs and to follow up with the patients, according to a county staff report to the board.

“The severity of the infection requires a regiment of a variety of antibiotics to clear the infection, with clinicians working closely with each child to monitor adverse side effects and switching to alternative antibiotics as needed,” according to the staff report.

One antibiotic — Clofazimine — “is being considered as one of the options for these children; however, the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved it for this application,” the report says.

That will require the hospital to go through a review process for each patient to justify its use for the dental infections.

“Both processes involve layers of review, volumes of paperwork and hours of time,” according to the report.

The hospital wants to hire someone to manage the process.

“All of the affected children require surgery and approximately half of them will also require approximately two months of intravenous antibiotic treatment, followed by two to four months of oral antibiotics,” according to the report.

The children underwent a “pulpotomy procedure,” which is done when infected pulp tissue of a tooth is treated or removed to prevent the loss of the tooth.

County officials determined that samples of water from the dentist’s office tested positive for mycobacterium. Dr. Eric Handler, the county’s public health officer, has ordered a “complete replacement” of the dentist’s water system.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said “the county needs to have an unequivocal commitment to help these kids.”

He said one “little girl had part of her jaw removed” because of the infection.

Spitzer criticized a letter sent to parents explaining the situation. He said it should have been more forceful about the issue.

“This is a dire emergency and you need to get your kids in here as quickly as possible,” Spitzer said the letter to parents should read so they would take their children in for an immediate checkup.

“We need to get every kid identified and reach out to every kid,” Spitzer said.  “This bacteria can incubate up to nine months. These kids may or may not exhibit any symptoms for nine months. That is like a ticking time bomb for a parent.”

—City News Service

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