Health Experts Sort Out Relevant Meningitis Outbreak Info

New Case Reports and Related Deaths Momentum Lessens

Yahoo Contributor Network

As much as health experts and clinicians alike would like to have the answers to many questions related to the fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States, they also know that undue haste may provide false information with which to proceed.

Although the wait for answers to questions such as how long is the outbreak likely to last and when will those people who received tainted injections but are asymptomatic have to wait before they know their risk of infection has passed prompts almost as much angst in the medical community as it does in the nearly 14,000 people who received such injections, there is little precedence on which answers can be immediately found.

CDC Report Gives Credit to Quick Reporting Actions of Physician

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Friday, discussing the meningitis outbreak arising from injections of the contaminated medication methylprednisolone acetate.

The report explained that the first case of fungal meningitis was reported by a clinician on Sept. 18 to the Tennessee Department of Health; by Sept. 27, eight more cases related to the epidural steroid injections had been determined. It was the quick and accurate diagnosis made by the initial clinician and the responsive follow-up by the Tennessee Department of Health, the CDC and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human services that allowed the important link between steroid spinal injections and the fungal meningitis to be recognized.

Without those initial timely actions, it may have been days, weeks, or even months before the association between the tainted injections and the fungal brain and spine infection would have been made.

Physician Says Alarm Was Sounded 10 Years Ago

USA Today reported that physician John Perfect treated five patients a decade ago in a similar outbreak, one of whom died from the illness. Perfect wrote an article published Oct. 18 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, titled "Iatrogenic Fungal Meningitis: Tragedy Repeated," explaining that the fungal infections in his patients in 2002, known to the CDC, were caused by preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, the same substance as in the current outbreak, that had been manufactured by a compounding pharmacy.

Perfect laments that the lesson he had thought health experts learned in 2002, that preservative-free corticosteroids required "meticulous sterility" throughout the production and bottling processes, seems to have gone by the wayside. Had the U.S. Food and Drug Administration been given improved authority over compounding pharmacies at that time, the current outbreak might never have occurred.

Lawyers Jump on the Lawsuit Bandwagon

Never let it be said that attorneys aren't looking out for the financial welfare of potential clients -- and themselves. A Chicago drug-injury lawyer is urging patients who received the tainted injections but are asymptomatic to get tested for signs of the illness. This is counter to what the CDC is advising at this time, which is to be alert for symptoms of the meningitis and report them promptly to a health care provider.

Bottom Line

Panic is not conducive to best outcomes and could bring with it an additional host of issues. The best defense for baby boomers, seniors and others who received the tainted epidural injections and are asymptomatic is to arm themselves with knowledge about the signs and symptoms for which they should observe.

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