13,000 got suspect steroid shots; risk uncertain

October 8, 2012 by Mike Stobbe
A vial of injectable steroids from the New England Compounding Center is displayed in the Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. The CDC has said an outbreak of fungal meningitis may have been caused by steroids from the Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. (AP Photo/Kristin M. Hall)

(AP)—As many as 13,000 people received steroid shots suspected in a U.S. meningitis outbreak, health officials said Monday. But it's not clear how many are in danger.

Officials don't how many of the shots may have been contaminated with meningitis-causing fungus tied to the outbreak. And the figure includes not only those who got them in the back for pain—who are most at risk—but also those who got the shots in other places, like knees and shoulders.

Those injected in joints are not believed to be at risk for fungal meningitis, said Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said there was no breakdown available of how many had the shots in the back or in joints.

The CDC count of cases reached 105 on Monday, including eight deaths. A ninth death was reported late Monday by a Nashville, Tennessee, hospital.

All had received shots for back pain, and investigators suspect a steroid medication made by a specialty pharmacy. About 17,700 single-dose vials of the steroid sent to 23 U.S. states have been recalled. Inspectors found at least one sealed vial contaminated with fungus, and tests were being done on other vials.

The first known case of the rarely seen fungal meningitis was diagnosed last month in Tennessee. The steroid maker, New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts, recalled the drug, and over the weekend recalled everything else it makes.

"While there is no indication at this time of any contamination in other NECC products, this recall is being taken as a precautionary measure," the company said in a statement.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and a back injection would put any contaminant in more direct contact with that lining.

Symptoms on meningitis include severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever. The CDC said many of the cases have been mild and some people had strokes. Symptoms have been appearing between one and four weeks after patients got the shots.

A Michigan man whose wife's death was linked to the outbreak said Monday that he, too, was treated with steroids from one of the recalled batches.

"Not only have I lost my wife, but I'm watching the clock to see if anything develops," George Cary said, as friends and family gathered for his wife's wake in Howell, 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Detroit.

His wife, Lilian, 67, had been ill since late August, but meningitis wasn't detected until Sept. 22, her husband said. She suffered a stroke and died Sept. 30, he said.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious like the more common forms. The two types of fungus linked so far to the outbreak are all around, but very rarely causes illness. Fungal meningitis is treated with high-dose antifungal medications, usually given intravenously in a hospital.

The steroid is known as preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, which the compounding pharmacy creates by combining a powder with a liquid.

Explore further: Steroid-related meningitis cases rise to 105

shares

Related Stories

Steroid-related meningitis cases rise to 105

October 8, 2012
(AP)—Health officials say the number of people sickened by a deadly meningitis outbreak has now reached 105 cases.

Steroid-related meningitis cases rise to 47

October 5, 2012
(AP)—As the tally from a deadly meningitis outbreak rose Friday, health officials identified the medical clinics across the country that received steroid shots for back pain now linked to the illnesses.

US: Avoid drugs from company tied to meningitis (Update)

October 4, 2012
U.S. health officials ramped up warnings Thursday about a specialty pharmacy linked to a widening outbreak of a rare kind of meningitis, urging doctors and hospitals not to use any products from the company.

US clinics rush to warn of tainted steroid; 5 dead

October 5, 2012
(AP)—Health providers scrambled to notify patients in nearly two dozen U.S. states that the steroid injections they received for back pain may have been contaminated with a deadly fungal meningitis. Five people have died.

US pharmacy linked to outbreak issues wide recall

October 7, 2012
(AP)—The pharmacy that distributed a steroid linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis has issued a voluntary recall of all of its products, calling the move a precautionary measure.

CDC: More than 90 people ill with meningitis

October 7, 2012
(AP)—Health officials say they have now confirmed more than 90 cases of a rare fungal meningitis that has been linked to a steroid commonly used to ease back pain.

Recommended for you

Study seeks to aid diagnosis, management of catatonia

December 11, 2017
Catatonia, a syndrome of motor, emotional and behavioral abnormalities frequently characterized by muscular rigidity and a trance-like mental stupor and at times manifesting with great excitement or agitation, can occur during ...

New compound stops progressive kidney disease in its tracks

December 7, 2017
Progressive kidney diseases, whether caused by obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or rare genetic mutations, often have the same outcome: The cells responsible for filtering the blood are destroyed. Reporting today in Science, ...

New Lyme disease tests could offer quicker, more accurate detection

December 7, 2017
New tests to detect early Lyme disease - which is increasing beyond the summer months -could replace existing tests that often do not clearly identify the infection before health problems occur.

Spinal tap needle type impacts the risk of complications

December 6, 2017
The type of needle used during a lumbar puncture makes a significant difference in the subsequent occurrence of headache, nerve irritation and hearing disturbance in patients, according to a study by Hamilton medical researchers.

Men with HPV are 20 times more likely to be reinfected after one year

December 5, 2017
A new analysis of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) in men shows that infection with one HPV type strongly increases the risk of reinfection with the same type. In fact, men who are infected with the type responsible for ...

New tuberculosis drugs possible with understanding of old antibiotic

December 5, 2017
Tuberculosis, and other life-threatening microbial diseases, could be more effectively tackled with future drugs, thanks to new research into an old antibiotic by the University of Warwick and The Francis Crick Institute.

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.