In case you may have missed it on the news I’d like to tell you about a serious and concerning health issue. If you, or a loved one, has received an epidural steroid injection for back pain in the last month, you will want to check with your doctor immediately. A possible contamination of drugs contained in these injections may have resulted in the outbreak of fungal meningitis. At the time of the posting, this meningitis has infected 119 people, climbing a staggering 67% in 1 week. Here are the facts at this time.
CDC Tells of Growing Cases
Last week in Tennessee several cases of a rare fungal meningitis were reported in patients who received epidural steroid injections out of one facility, Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville. This facility received about 2,000 of the 17,676 vials of possibly contaminated steroids. According to USA Today, [CDC Reports 11th Fungal Meningitis Death], since that time an additional 100 people, in several other states have been found to be infected with fungal meningitis after receiving these shots. At the time of this posting, the CDC has reported that 11 people have died from this very rare and serious type of meningitis.
The US. Food and Drug Administration has put out a public health notice alerting people that methylprednisolone acetate, a common steroid given for pain was found to contain a fungal contaminant (aspergillus).
A recall of this batch of products is under way at this time, but health officials estimate that as many as 13,000 – or more – people across the United States may have already been infected. Most of the people infected were older adults but some children also received the injections.
The steroid batch originated out of a compounding pharmaceutical company in Framingham, Massachusetts who has since recalled 3 lots of the drugs and stopped operations. It was estimated that about 75 clinics in 23 states had received the bad lots. They were instructed to notify all patients who may have gotten the injection.
Your Risk of Fungal Meningitis and Its Symptoms
Fungal type meningitis is more rare than the common bacterial form. It is not contagious and you cannot get it from someone infected with it. You would had to have had an epidural steroid injection in order to be at risk for infection with the fungal organism aspergillus associated with this outbreak.
Symptoms of fungal type meningitis are milder in onset than bacterial and may take as long as a month to surface. Yet, this aspergillus type of fungal meningitis is a very serious health concern that can lead to severe neurological damage and death. Here are some associated symptoms:
- Headache and stiff neck
- Slurred speech and confusion
Treatment for Fungal Aspergillus Meningitis
Health officials are trying to track the estimated 13,000 people who received the contaminated epidural steroid injections and may become infected with fungal meningitis. According to CBS news [Finding meningitis victims before it’s too late, Jonathan Pook, October 8, 2012], there is a 1-4 week incubation period before symptoms may start to show. You are also at higher risk if you have a compromised immune system from another disease like AIDS, cancer or another chronic illness.
If you start to show symptoms, you will need to be evaluated with a lumbar puncture – withdrawing fluid from your spinal canal – to determine if you have this particular aspergillus type of fungal meningitis. If you do, hospitalization and treatment with high doses of intravenous antifungal medication will need to be done. Treatment for this illness may be prolonged over months.
Is Your Clinic Involved?
To see a map of states and a list of the clinics that are involved with possibly contaminated injections, please visit the CDC’s website. Although the outbreak has affected more people to date in Tennessee, states as far north as Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts have also reported growing cases of the infection.
As noted earlier, infection symptoms in fungal meningitis can be delayed and be mild in onset. If you received an epidural steroid injection from any of these listed clinics, or another clinic, even as long as a month ago, please contact your doctor for further evaluation.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Finding meningitis victims before it’s too late, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57528341/finding-meningitis-victims-before-its-too-late/
CDC – Multi-State Meningitis Facilities Outbreak Map, http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-facilities-map.html
CDC Reports 11th Fungal Meningitis Death, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/09/meningitis-outbreak-deaths/1622869/
As Outbreak Spreads, Calls for Tighter Controls on Specialized Pharmacies, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443982904578044682649925200.html
Meningitis-linked steroid shots given to 13,000 U.S. patients, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/09/us-usa-health-meningitis-idUSBRE8970TQ20121009
photo credit: watchplayread.com