"Treatment could be prolonged, possibly on the order of months" (Photo : Flickr- Lance McCord)
Health officials report that cases of fungal meningitis have risen to 35, affecting Indiana, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, resulting in 5 deaths so far in 2012.
Meningitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the "protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges," says the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
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President of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Dr. William Schaffner, explains that "fungal meningitis in general is rare. But aspergillus meningitis -the kind we're talking about here - is super rare and very serious."
Schaffner adds, "There's no such thing as mild aspergillus meningitis."
A steroid administered for back pain is suspected as the culprit, but the "FDA is in the process of further identifying the fungal contaminate," according to the acting direct of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance, Ilisa Bernstein.
Dr. Benjamin Park of the CDC suggests, "if patients are concerned, they should contact their physician to find out if they received medicine from one of [the contaminated] lots [of the steroid]."
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, altered mental states, fever, headache, stiff neck, hallucinations, and personality changes. The CDC explains that fungal meningitis "often appears more gradually than other types of meningitis infections. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.
The CDC writes: health officials typically treat the illness with "long courses of high dose antifungal medications. This is usually given using an IV line and is done in the hospital. The length of treatment depends on the status of the immune system and the type of fungus that caused the infection."
Park notes, ""Treatment could be prolonged, possibly on the order of months."