Five New Cases Of Fungal Meningitis Reported In Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Health said five new cases of fungal meningitis have been reported in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 18 in Tennessee.
Two of the new cases were patients who received lumbar epidural steroid injections from the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville. The rest of the victims had received the injections at Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville.
Officials said they are "almost certain" there will be new cases identified. They added that some of the patients' conditions are improving; however, others are "seriously ill and may die."
Two people have already died in what officials call a "rapidly evolving outbreak." The victims' ages range from 49 to 89.
It is believed that since the incubation period for fungal meningitis is so long that there are people out there who may be infected but are not yet showing symptoms.
No cases have been reported prior to July 30, but they are now speaking with patients who received the epidural injection from July 1 to make sure they aren't missing anyone.
Meanwhile, some of those patients are waiting and worrying. Sue Manor from Hendersonville, received an epidural steroid injection at St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center September 18th. The clinic notified her she may be at risk for developing meningitis, which she says is a scary thought.
"It just shocked me," said Manor, "I was totally unprepared. It's a big deal, but I'm usually a strong person, so I do believe will survive this."
Officials said that they must first find out the specific kind of fungus they're dealing with before finding a cure. They are encouraging people who had the injections to be aware of the symptoms, which include severe to worsening severe headache, nausea, and fever.
The Food and Drug Administration said that they are working with several state health departments and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy. They were still investigating the scope and cause of the outbreak.
Officials said they have identified the compounding center where the drugs were mixed, a facility called the New England Compounding Center. The NECC has conducted a voluntary recall of 3 lots of Methylprednisolone epidural injection that was produced at the facility.
Health officials said, in total, 26 people in five states, including Tennessee, who received steroid injections have contracted the rare and deadly form of meningitis. In Maryland, two cases were reported, with one death.
PCA Pain Care Clinic in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, also received the epidural injections, but officials said no cases have been reported.
Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery received 2,000 vials of the contaminated drug, which officials said was the largest in the U.S.
None of the drug is left on shelves anywhere in Tennessee, but officials said they cannot say that about other states.
The Department of Health and the CDC first announced the meningitis cases Monday.
On Tuesday, officials said the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville had received what public health officials describe as "materials of interest." A spokesperson for the center said they have stopped giving patients the epidural steroid injections in question, have notified patients who may be impacted, and are cooperating with the investigation.
Three lots of injectable steroid used at the St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center have been recalled by the manufacturer.
Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery voluntarily closed while health officials investigated the cases. It will not re-open until the CDC is confident all concerns have been resolved. Officials said staff have attempted to contact more than 700 patients who received the injection between July 30 and September 20.
There were approximately 200 patients treated with the injection at the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville as well.
Meningitis is a general term for an infection or inflammation of the lining of the brain and the central nervous system.
Officials said the form of meningitis the patients contracted is not viral or bacterial, and cannot be transmitted from person to person.
A hotline has been set up to answer questions from the public about the meningitis cases at 1-800-222-1222.