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Outbreak of Rare Fungal Meningitis

By on October 14, 2012

There is an outbreak of fungal meningeitis, more than 205 cases – about 15 deadly crossing more than a dozen states. Fungal meningitis occurs when the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus.  Fungal meningitis is rare and usually caused by the spread of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord.

The CDC estimates the death toll at 15 and said new cases were confirmed in New Hampshire, Florida, Indiana, and Tennessee.

All but two of those who became ill were diagnosed with a rare type of fungal meningitis that has been the hallmark of the deadly outbreak. Two patients were diagnosed with peripheral joint infections linked to the tainted drug. Tennessee continues to be the hardest hit state, with 53 cases of meningitis and six deaths, the CDC said, followed by Michigan with 41 cases and three deaths, and Virginia with 34 cases and one death.

The outbreak has turned into a major health scandal after a company based in Massachusetts shipped vials that may have been tainted to 23 states and 76 medical facilities.

The scare has prompted multiple investigations, and the Massachusetts-based company at the center of the outbreak, New England Compounding Center (NECC), has recalled the product and suspended operations. NECC distributed thousands of vials of a contaminated steroid that has put 14,000 people at risk of contracting meningitis, according to government health officials.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

The scare raised questions about how the pharmaceuticals industry operates. NECC engaged in a little-known practice called drug compounding that is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which generally oversees drug makers.

And to be certain there are three potentially contaminated lots of the medication:

  • Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) 80 mg/ml Injection, Lot #05212012@68, BUD 11/17/2012
  • Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) 80 mg/ml Injection, Lot #06292012@26, BUD 12/26/2012
  • Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) 80 mg/ml Injection, Lot #08102012@51, BUD 2/6/2013

Physicians should contact their patients immediately if they’ve prescribed any drugs from these batches. If you are a patient and have recently be prescribed this medication, please see your doctor for follow-up and be sure you to do so promptly.


This photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Health and Associated Press.

One Comment

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