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Steroid injections linked to meningitis outbreak
10.05.2012Thirty people in six states have contracted fungal meningitis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease, according to media reports. The disease has claimed the lives of five people, while the others remain sick as of varying degrees of sick as of Oct. 4.
"Some are doing well and improving. Some are very ill – very, very seriously ill and may die," Tennessee health official David Reagan told The Huffington Post, regarding the surviving meningitis patients at his facility.
Well over half of these these meningitis cases have been reported in Tennessee, where the news source says five new meningitis cases have appeared. The rest of the cases are scattered throughout Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Indiana and North Carolina.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that meningitis - an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord - usually only strikes individuals with weakened immune systems due to pre-existing conditions. It can be characterized by nausea, vomiting, unusually high sensitivity to light and severe disorientation.
Although vaccinations, available at immediate care clinics, urgent care facilities or patient-centered medical homes, have been shown to prevent bacterial meningitis, the same can't be said for its fungal counterpart. Fortuitously, fungal meningitis is not contagious like its bacterial or viral versions. As symptoms can surface very slowly - as long as 28 days after exposure - health officials predict that more cases will likely appear.
Health official strongly warn against products from Framingham specialty pharmacy
The source of his outbreak has been traced back to injectable spinal steroids produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Mass., which makes customized compound drugs. The Boston Globe reports that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are both cautioning against the use of any product that originated from these facilities.
The news source states that the illness-causing fungus was discovered by law enforcement in a vial at the pharmacy this week, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) has publicized its cooperation with the two federal agencies.
"There are four products common to all of these cases," reads the statement from the MDPH. "One medication, Methylprednisolone Acetate, a steroid, was prepared at the NECC, a pharmacy in Framingham, Massachusetts. It has been recalled and quarantined as a precaution. NECC is voluntarily recalling all similar medications."
The statement continues to note that the NECC has given up its operating license for the duration of an upcoming investigation.
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