Rare US fungal meningitis outbreak grows; 5 dead (Update)

October 4, 2012 by Mike Stobbe

(AP)—A fifth person has died in a growing outbreak of a rare form of meningitis that has sickened more than two dozen people in five U.S. states.

Dr. Robert Latham, chief of medicine at Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, said Thursday a patient died there late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Tennessee has had three deaths. Deaths have also been reported in Virginia and Maryland.

People in all the cases received steroid injections used mostly for back pain that have been traced back to a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. The pharmacy issued a recall last week and has shut down operations.

Health officials believe that more new cases are almost certain to appear in the coming days.

The type of meningitis involved is not contagious like the more common forms. This type is caused by a fungus often found in leaf mold and which health officials suspect may have been in the steroid.

Investigators said they are still trying to confirm the source of the infection.

Federal health officials weren't clear about whether new infections were occurring. They were looking for—and increasingly finding—illnesses that occurred in the past two or three months.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include severe and worsening headache, nausea, dizziness and fever. Some patients also experienced slurred speech, and difficulty walking and urinating, said health officials in Tennesse, which has seen most of the cases.

"Some are doing well and improving. Some are very ill—very, very seriously ill and may die," Tennessee health official Dr. David Reagan said.

The incubation period is estimated at anywhere from two to 28 days, so some people may not have fallen ill yet, Tennessee health officials said. At three clinics in Tennessee, officials were contacting the more than 900 people who received the steroid in the past three months.

The Food and Drug Administration identified the maker of the steroid as New England Compounding Center. Last week, the company issued a recall of three lots of the steroid—methylprednisolone acetate. In a statement, the company said it had voluntarily suspended operations and was working with regulators to identify the source of the infection.

Federal officials did not release condition reports or details on all the patients in the five states.

shares

Related Stories

CDC links eye infections to troubled Fla. pharmacy

May 3, 2012

(AP) -- Federal health officials confirmed 33 cases of a rare fungal eye infection across seven states on Thursday, stemming from products mixed in a Florida pharmacy that also mixed supplements that killed 21 elite polo ...

Hungarian teen dies of bacterial meningitis

July 20, 2012

A Hungarian teenager has died of bacterial meningitis and 69 people who came in contact with her were prescribed antibiotics, public health officials said.

Recommended for you

Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies

July 28, 2015

A two-step regimen of experimental vaccines against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) prompted immune responses in mice and rhesus macaques, report National Institutes of Health scientists who designed the vaccines. ...

Can social isolation fuel epidemics?

July 21, 2015

Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according ...

Lack of knowledge on animal disease leaves humans at risk

July 20, 2015

Researchers from the University of Sydney have painted the most detailed picture to date of major infectious diseases shared between wildlife and livestock, and found a huge gap in knowledge about diseases which could spread ...

IBD genetically similar in Europeans and non-Europeans

July 20, 2015

The first genetic study of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to include individuals from diverse populations has shown that the regions of the genome underlying the disease are consistent around the world. This study, conducted ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.