An uncommon form of fungal meningitis has been confirmed across seven states, killing five individuals, with approximately 50 more cases being reported.
Health officials have linked this outbreak to spinal steroid injections, which is a common treatment for back pain among older adults. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports to have found a seal vial of preservative-free Methylprednisolone Acetate that contained fungus.
The steroid injections come from the New England Compounding Center (NECC), a specialty pharmacy in Framingham, Massachusetts. The NECC has recalled three batches or 17,700 vials of the drug and has temporarily shut down operations. The FDA advises all health facilities and providers to temporarily stop using products made by the NECC for the remainder of the investigation.
As of date, 47 cases have been reported in seven states, namely Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, and Michigan. Twenty-nine of these cases occurred in Tennessee alone. Three individuals have died in Tennessee, one in Maryland, and one in Virginia.
Approximately 75 facilities throughout 23 states were said to have received the potentially contaminated injections, and these facilities have been instructed to notify all patients who may be affected.
Fungal meningitis is a rare disease that affects the lining of the spinal cord and brain. Early signs and symptoms may include slurred speech, dizziness, fever, severe headaches, and nausea. If left untreated, fungal meningitis could possibly cause permanent neurological damage, and even death.
Unlike viral or bacterial meningitis, fungal meningitis cannot be transmitted from person to person. Only individuals who received the mentioned steroid injections are believed to be at risk of this disease.