A security guard looks out from the front doors of pharmaceutical compounding company NECC, a producer of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate, in Framingham, Massachusetts (Photo : Reuters)
Since a contaminated steroid known as methylprednisolone acetate sparked a national fungal meningitis outbreak, 170 people have been infected, and 14 have died.
The Center for Disease Control's Jamila Jones warns: "We know that 13,000 people recieved the injection. They received it at facilities across the country. They are at risk."
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The tainted injections started on May 21, 2012, and were recalled on September 26, 2012 by the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Symptoms usually occur within 1 to 4 weeks post-injection, but exact times vary from patient to patient.
A full list of the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company's recalled medications can be found here.
The CDC discovered the presence of the fungus species Exserohilum in 10 patients, and the fungus Aspergillus in one other case. Fungal meningitis is not contagious, but is very rare and lethal to patients with weak immune systems.
Here's a breakdown of nationwide meningitis statistics. Tennessee reports 49 cases and 6 deaths, Virginia reports 30 cases and 1 death, Florida reports 7 cases and 2 deaths, Indiana reports 21 cases and 1 death, Maryland reports 13 cases and 1 death, Michigan reports 39 cases and 3 deaths, Idaho reports 1 case, Minnesota reports 3 cases, New Jersey reports 2 cases, North Carolina reports 2 cases, and Ohio reports 3 cases.
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.
Children also share many of the same symptoms, but also display distinct behavioral changes that parents should be on the lookout for. 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 necks forward in a fetal position and be unable to straighten their legs in cases of meningitis. To be clear, the source of the recent meningitis outbreak originated for a medication meant to relieve back pain in adults.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the brain and spine's protective membrane, known as the meninges. The CDC advises clinicians to contact any patients who received injections of any medication listed on NECC's official recall list.