A Chinese child is vaccinated for meningitis at a vaccination centre in Chuzhou. (Photo : Reuters)
The recent fungal meningitis outbreak, which allegedly originated from the Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center (NECC), has now taken the lives of seven, and afflicted 91 people with the illness.
Unlike viral meningitis, aspergillus meningitis is not contagious or common, but remains a serious condition. The U.S. Food and Drug Association is still in the process of "conducting additional microbial testing to confirm the exact species of the fungus," notes the FDA's official site.
Like Us on Facebook
NECC has recalled all of its products to curb the spread of the further infections, which inflame the protective membranes covering the spinal cord and brain. The culprit is a steroid known as methylprednisolone acetate, which was administered to numerous patients through epidural injections, largely for back pain. The Center for Disease Control clarifies that "epidural injections are generally very safe procedures, and complications are rare" on its official site.
The CDC records 20 cases and 2 deaths in Michigan, 32 cases and 3 deaths in Tennessee, 18 cases and 1 death in Virginia, 3 cases and 1 death in Maryland, 4 cases in Florida, 8 cases in Indiana, 3 cases in Minnesota, 2 cases in North Carolina, and 1 case in Ohio.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, altered mental states, fever, headache, stiff neck, hallucinations, and personality changes. Treatment usually involves prolonged courses of high dose antifungal medications through an IV line, according to the CDC. Treatment length may vary depending on the patient's immune system, lasting months in some cases.
Although the outbreak has had little effect on children, it is important to know the signs of meningitis to better prepare for future emergencies. If a baby has no appetite, is lethargic, cries when held, and exhibits the usual symptoms of fever, vomiting, light sensitivity , headaches, neck stiffness, confusion, fever, and seizure, meningitus may be at the root of the problem. Children have also been known to bring their knees closer to their bodies and bend their knecks forward in a fetal position and be unable to straighten their legs in cases of meningitis.
For a full list of NECC's recalled medications, click here.