Dr. Jonathan Schmitz,a micro biology fellow in the Vanderbilt Clinical Microbiology Lab for patient care examines a sample of Aspergillus fumigatus, the first fungus diagnosed in the fungal meningitis outbreak sweeping the United States, in Nashville, Tenn (Photo : Reuters)
The number of deaths related to the outbreak of fungal meningitis has risen by three over the last two days.
The outbreak, which has killed 23 - the three latest being in Michigan, Tennessee, and North Carolina - has been linked to steroid injections shipped out from Framingham, Mass. - based pharmacist New England Compounding Center.
Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates pharmaceutical companies such as the Framingham company, confirmed Thursday that investigators from their agency and the CDC found traces of Exserohilum rostratum, linked to the outbreak, within products shipped at the New England company.
Meningitis affects the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Early symptoms of the infection can appear as headaches, fever, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, weakness or numbness, slurred speech and pain, and redness or swelling at the injection site. However, such symptoms can take more than a month to appear.
The CDC's Dr. Benjamin Park told ABC News that the longest duration from the time of injection to the onset of symptoms in the current outbreak is 42 days.
"But we want to emphasize that we don't know what the longest will be," he added, stressing that patients who received injections of the recalled drug should stay attuned to the subtle symptoms "for months."
The FDA estimates that as many as 14,000 patients may have received injections from the company-probably for back pain treatment.
As Fox News reports, those figures include not only patients who got shots for back pain and are most at risk for meningitis, but also "patients that may have received injections to treat pain in their knees and shoulders.
The FDA told Fox News that it was advising all health care professionals to follow up with any patients who were given any injectable drug from or produced by the New England company, including medications used in eye surgery, and a heart solution purchased from or produced by the company after May 21.