Nine dead, more than 100 infected by tainted steroids for back pain
It took more than a month for doctors to diagnose 67-year-old Lilian Cary with fungal meningitis and begin treatment. The Michigan woman was responding to the medication, and her fever had broken, but her frail body ultimately lost its battle with the infection. A week later she was dead.
It was a staggering loss for her husband, George. But the bad news kept coming. Just days after his wife died he was told that Lilian’s death was linked to a batch of contaminated steroid injections she had received at a clinic that regularly treated her back pain. And, the doctor added, the injections George received for his back pain in September may have come from the same tainted lot of medication.
George endured a painful spinal tap and is waiting on test results to see if he, too, was infected with the fungus. It can take a month for symptoms of the condition to appear. “They advised me to watch for symptoms,” George told The Associated Press. “Not only have I lost my wife, but I’m watching the clock to see if anything develops.”
Meningitis is a serious condition in which the membranes surrounding the spinal cord or brain become inflamed. The most common forms of meningitis are caused by bacteria or viruses. Fungal meningitis is extremely rare and though it is not contagious, it can be difficult to treat.
Last week, cases of fungal meningitis were traced back to an injectable steroid commonly used to treat back pain, made by New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. Health officials say as many as 13,000 people in 23 states may have been exposed. To date, 105 people have been infected, and nine have died. All received shots for back pain.
New England Compounding Center has recalled the steroids and, over the weekend, expanded the recall to all its products.
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- Meningitis outbreak raises questions about safety of compounding pharmacies
- Meningitis outbreak could spread to 23 states
- Compounding pharmacy at center of meningitis outbreak recalls all products in circulation