Meningitis Outbreak Grows to 170 Cases, 14 Deaths

LiveScience.com

The number of people with a rare fungal form of meningitis tied to steroid injections is now up to 170, including 14 who have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today (Oct. 11).

Cases have been reported in 11 states. Yesterday, Idaho became the first Western state to report a case, the CDC said.

Tennessee has the most infected people, with 49 cases, followed by Michigan with 39 cases, and Virginia with 30 cases. The other states reporting cases are Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey and Ohio.

The outbreak is linked to steroid injections produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. Patients affected by the outbreak received injections of steroids in their spines as a treatment for lower back pain. [See: 5 Meningitis Facts You Need to Know.]

An investigation of the NECC facility found fungal contamination, according to the Food and Drug Administration. All products made by NECC have been recalled.

The CDC continues to urge doctors to contact any patients who received the recalled steroid injections, which were used starting on May 21, 2012.

The rising number of cases in the meningitis outbreak does not mean doctors are still using the tainted drugs. Symptoms may take four weeks to appear, so people who received shots before the recall may still develop meningitis. Meningitis is a swelling or inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (which are called the meninges). Common causes of meningitis are viruses and bacteria, but it can also be caused by fungus or parasites. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.

So far, 10 meningitis patients were confirmed to be infected with the fungus Exserohilum, while one case involved the fungus Aspergillus, the CDC says.

The CDC and FDA will release more information about the outbreak to reporters later today.

Pass it on: An outbreak of fungal meningitis has grown to include 170 people in 11 states.

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