Meningitis Outbreak Leaves 15 dead and 200 Infected
The toll of infections and deaths from a widening fungal meningitis outbreak now tops more than 200 people in 14 states nearly a month after the first case was diagnosed – and that number is likely to keep growing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 203 individuals have developed the rare form of meningitis and two others have joint infections. So far 15 have died. More than 14,000 people may have received injections of a fungus-tainted steroid to treat spine or joint pain.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.The symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, and fever. However, unlike other types, fungal meningitis is not contagious.
Exserohilum — a brown-black mold fungus — is identified as the cause of meningitis in 26 patients, said the CDC. One patient has Aspergillus, a separate fungus that can also lead to meningitis.
Treatment is expected to take months and relies on powerful drugs that themselves can cause severe side effects such as kidney damage, according to the CDC.
Illnesses tied to the outbreak have been reported in 14 states to date with New Hampshire being the latest to join the list. The other states are Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, according to the CDC.
The fungus was traced to at least 50 vials of an injectable steroid medication made at a specialty compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts, according to the Associated Press (AP). A recall of three lots of the preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate was issued last month by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). NECC is cooperating with federal officials and has since turned in its license, recalled all its other drugs, and ceased operations.
As part of the ongoing investigation by federal health officials, investigators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing the processes, procedures, and documentation at the facility.
However, Massachusetts health officials said NECC may have broken state laws that restrict compounding pharmacies from doing large-scale production of drugs, according to AP.
Last week, based on the business relationship between NECC and another pharmacy company, Ameridose, the FDA and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy launched a joint inspection at the Ameridose facility in Westborough, Massachusetts. Currently, there is no known contamination of products produced by Ameridose
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