The fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States has taken a twist that didn't altogether surprise health experts, but rather confirmed their fears. Additional medications from the New England Compounding Center, NECC, have been linked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to new cases of the infectious illness.
Different Drugs, Same Fungal Meningitis Infections
On Monday, the FDA made a preliminary report that two transplant patients who had received an injectable heart drug medication and a person in Pennsylvania who had received an injection for pain other than the methylprednisolone acetate originally linked to the infections also had the rare fungal meningitis.
Today, the FDA issued a new statement based on ongoing investigations into the infections linked to other NECC-made drugs that reveals only one of the transplant patients has the fungal infection and health experts are looking into any other possible ways that person may have contracted the causative fungus.
Health Care Providers to Contact Patients Who Received Any NECC Injectable Medications
Health care providers had already been advised by the FDA to stop using any medications distributed by NECC; on Monday the federal agency gave notice to health care practitioners, "out of an abundance of caution," to contact patients who had received any injectable drug made by NECC after May 21. Providers will be contacting those who received joint injections, certain eye injections and medications associated with eye surgery and others.
At this time, the FDA has ascertained that topical medications such as lotions, eye drops not associated with eye surgery, and creams present lower risks for anyone developing fungal meningitis.
It is important to note that no cases of fungal meningitis have been linked to eye surgery patients, but because the agency is concerned about the potential for infection, these medications have been included in the patient advisory.
A list of all medications produced and distributed by NECC has been provided by the FDA.
Symptoms to Look for in Fungal Meningitis Infections
As health care providers begin to notify people of their potential risk of the fungal infection, they will explain symptoms of which to be aware and to report. The symptoms of fungal meningitis tend to develop more slowly, and only one or two of them may be noticed. Symptoms include change in mental status, light sensitivity, fever, worsening headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting.
Other symptoms people should be aware of, depending on how the NECC drug was used in their individual case include redness and warmth at the injection site, pain at injection site, drainage from eyes or visual changes, chest pain or drainage from surgical site in chest.
Statistics of Meningitis Outbreak
When only the methylprednisolone acetate was linked with the current outbreak, there was the potential for 14,000 people to have been exposed to the infection. Now that more of the medications produced by the NECC have been identified as also being suspect, it is unknown how many people may have been exposed to what is a long-running and life-threatening illness.