A serious outbreak of non-contagious meningitis that has sickened at least 12 people and killed two others has been tied to steroid injections that were administered to the patients' spines. A spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Health told CNN on Tuesday that 13 of those who are known to have been infected had received spinal injections at a Nashville clinic. The other person that has been affected reportedly resides in North Carolina.
An exact source for the disease has not been publicly identified, although health officials and investigators may be getting closer to figuring out what caused the outbreak. Marion Kainer, who works with the Tennessee Department of Health, stated on Tuesday that three lots of a particular injectable steroid have now been recalled by the manufacturer, according to the Associated Press.
Here is some of the key information regarding the current meningitis outbreak in Tennessee as of Tuesday.
* According to a New York Times report, Dr. April Pettit has been officially credited with discovering that the affected patients had a type of meningitis caused by the fungus Aspergillus, a rare form of the disease. Pettit tested a patient of hers that had presented with a troubling mystery illness for the disease, establishing what is known as an "index case," giving other doctors struggling to identify what was making their patients sick a possible starting point.
* Fungal meningitis is particularly serious and difficult to treat, as it does not respond well to antibiotics.
* Part of the problem in trying to identify the exact source of the infection has been the fact that several of those affected, 11 of whom remained hospitalized as of Tuesday, may have had multiple procedures along with the spinal injections, according to the CNN report.
* Dr. David Reagan, who is the chief medical officer of the Tennessee Department of Health, told the Associated Press and other media outlets on Tuesday that revealing too much information too fast may have a negative impact on the overall investigation into the outbreak.
* Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the media on Tuesday that the agency is working with health officials in other states in order to ascertain whether or not there is a risk that more people may have been affected, according to the Associated Press report.
* Media outlets have reported that as many as 900 people may have received the kind of steroid injections in question. An NBC News article stated that at least 737 of those patients have been notified regarding their risk of contracting the infection as of Tuesday. All of the injections in question were administered between July 30 and September 20.
* Health officials have been quick to draw a distinction between the epidural steroid injections in question and the type of epidural injection used for women during childbirth or Caesarean sections, and to stress that the disease is not contagious.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.