Thousands of people have been contacted by Public Health Wales amid concerns they may have contracted a bacterial infection during heart surgery. 

According to the Trust, people who received open heart surgery since January 2013 could have been infected with Mycobacterium chimaera, a rare but serious infection that can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms of the infection include a fever, weight loss, shortness of breath and nausea. 

"If it is confirmed that they have developed the infection, we would encourage them to get in touch with our specialist medical negligence lawyers..."

Cathryn Davies, Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Public Health Wales and seven Welsh health boards have taken the precautionary measure of writing to 2,771 patients who may have been affected during surgery at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, or in England, as part of a UK-wide response. 

The cause of the infection is linked to a device used to heat and cool the blood during certain forms of heart surgery, and roughly one in 5,000 of those who have had this surgery will develop the infection. Guidance on how to use and maintain the devices was issued in 2015 after the infection risk was identified. 

Dr Eleri Davies, of Public Health Wales, noted that many of the symptoms of the infection “can have far more common causes” and stressed no cases of the infection had been identified in those who had surgery since the guidance was published. However, between 2013 and 2015, three cases were identified in Welsh patients who had been operated on in Cardiff and England. 

Cathryn Davies, senior clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Cardiff office, said: “The likelihood of a former heart surgery patient having developed this infection is extremely low, but it is not something to be taken lightly. 

“Those who suffer the infection may need surgery or a long-term dose of antibiotics, so it is vital that those who have received the letter and are suffering from the symptoms, make an appointment with their GP to identify the root cause.

“If it is confirmed that they have developed the infection, we would encourage them to get in touch with our specialist medical negligence lawyers, who can help determine whether they are entitled to make a claim for compensation.”