Number of infected still rising despite reaching end of assumed incubation period
Nine more people have developed fungal meningitis within the past 24 hours after receiving contaminated steroid shots manufactured at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy, bringing the number of infected in the multistate outbreak to 386. Of those infected, 377 have been diagnosed with fungal meningitis, stroke due to presumed fungal meningitis, or other central nervous system-related infection; and nine have fungal infections in joints. Twenty-eight people have died.
On September 26, 2012, New England Compounding Center issued a recall of three lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA), a steroid commonly used to treat back or joint pain. Tests on the recalled lots found them to contain a fungus known as Exserohilum rostratum. Nearly 18,000 contaminated vials were sent to health care facilities in 23 states. An estimated 14,000 people received the shots, and almost all have been contacted and told to look for symptoms of meningitis, such as severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, and dizziness.
Meningitis is most often caused by bacteria or viruses. Fungal meningitis is extremely rare, and the fungus that has been infecting people who received the contaminated injections has never before been known to cause meningitis. Because it is so rare, doctors can only make educated guesses on treatment options and durations, as well as incubation period. It was initially thought that the slow-growing fungus would take 1-4 weeks before patients began showing symptoms of illness. However, it has been five weeks since the shots were recalled, and the number of infected continues to rise.
The one plus, however, is that doctors now know to test and, if necessary, re-test patients for the fungus if they have received one of the recalled steroid shots. Early treatment is key for survival. If left untreated, meningitis can lead to permanent neurological damage and death.
- Nine dead, more than 100 infected by tainted steroids for back pain
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- Three more dead, 16 more infected in multistate fungal meningitis outbreak