A class-action lawsuit claims four people died from the same surgical equipment used at local hospitals.

Carolinas HealthCare System sent warning letters to thousands of its patients, according to WSOC-TV.

The bacteria, known as mycobacterium chimaera, is already blamed for four deaths at Greenville Health System in South Carolina in July 2014, according to the lawsuit filed Jan. 24.

It said the company that made heater-cooler machines used during surgery failed to give proper instructions to sterilize the machines to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

Attorney Randall Hood said that company named in the lawsuit, Sorin, who makes the equipment is guilty of other negligence.

“Sorin knew and actually shipped some of the devices knowing that they were contaminated with a particular micro-bacteria,” Hood said.

According to Carolinas HealthCare System, the bacteria is very slow-growing. There’s no way to test for it, diagnose it or even treat it.

The lawsuit is only for people in South Carolina. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states including North Carolina. There is no word yet if they’ll be combined or heard separately.

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