You could be at risk of mycobacterium chimaera if you've had open heart surgery or a heart or lung transplant since January 2013

Who is at risk?

From Monday 20th to Thursday 30th March 2017, the NHS will be writing to people across the UK who may be at risk of infection with a bacteria called mycobacterium chimaera.

If you or your child have had open heart surgery or a heart or lung transplant since January 2013, there's a small risk that you may have been infected during your operation.

Only about one in 5,000 people who has heart valve replacement or repair surgery will develop the infection.

This is a rare, but potentially serious infection and can be fatal if left untreated, so it is important to know the symptoms and see your GP if you are concerned about your health.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has carried out this investigation in collaboration with NHS boards, private healthcare providers, other devolved administrations, Public Health England (PHE), the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and NHS England.

Further information

Visit the Health Protection Scotland website for further guidance.
Health Protection Scotland guidance

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lr_xmsiDfQ)

Public Health England has produced this video which you may find helpful.

What causes the infection?

The risk of infection has been linked to a device used to heat and cool the blood during some types of heart surgery. All the cases identified in the world to date have been linked to devices produced by one manufacturer.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms include:

  • a fever – including feeling hot and shivery or having a temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • unexplained weight loss
  • increasing shortness of breath
  • waking up with bed sheets showing signs of sweating (night sweats)
  • joint or muscle pain
  • feeling sick or vomiting
  • stomach (abdominal) pain
  • feeling unusually tired
  • pain, redness, warmth or pus around where you had your operation

There's no need to seek emergency treatment, as these symptoms can have many different causes and are very unlikely to be due to a mycobacterium chimaera infection.

What should I do next?

If you're feeling well, you don't need to do anything straight away. The symptoms can take up to five years to appear and you can't be tested to see if you will develop symptoms in the future.