14 Deaths, 170 Cases In Fungal Meningitis Outbreak - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

14 Deaths, 170 Cases In Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two new deaths have been reported in a meningitis outbreak linked to tainted steroid injections, bringing the total number of deaths to 14 nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control updated the count on their website Thursday afternoon, with 170 cases in 11 states.

Five new cases were reported in Tennessee Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 49. Six people have died in the state since the outbreak started in September. 

The outbreak of fungal meningitis has been linked to steroid shots for back pain. The medication, made by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts, has been recalled.

The epidural injections were provided between July 1 and September 28 at PCA Pain Center in Oak Ridge; Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville; and the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville.

Individuals who have had an epidural steroid injection at one of these facilities during that time should contact their health care provider for an assessment.

As many as 13,000 people received steroid shots from the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The company has recalled the fungus-contaminated steroid, which was shipped to 23 states.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said NECC may have misled regulators and done work beyond the scope of its state license.

Patrick told reporters Wednesday that state and federal agencies "may have been misled by some of the information we were given."

He said the company was supposed to fill specific prescriptions for specific patients but instead made big batches of medicine and sold them out of state.

He said that was outside of its state license.

Allegations of a shot tainted with a different form of meningitis were at the heart of a lawsuit filed against company over the 2004 death of an 83-year-old man who died about a year and a half after receiving a shot produced by the company.

Earlier this summer, a separate pharmaceutical firm with common owners was accused of failing to separate sterile and non-sterile supplies.

Another drug company that has some of the same owners, Ameridose LLC, agreed to temporarily stop its compounding and manufacturing operations as a precaution while regulators inspect its facilities, but the measure is being done as a precaution, not because of evidence of contamination, officials said Wednesday. Ameridose, based in Westborough, Mass., was accused by a business customer this year of failing to separate sterile and non-sterile products in its warehouse.

The other states reporting cases include Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

The pharmacy that distributed the steroid issued a voluntary recall of all of its products Saturday, calling the move a precautionary measure. Tennessee health officials had already directed clinics and hospitals not to use any products provided by the New England Compounding Center and further urged any consumers to avoid any medications from the pharmacy.

In Tennessee, officials believe about 1,000 people could have received the contaminated medication and thus could be at risk, Dreyzehner said. Many of those received multiple injections. Officials encourage vigilance for up to three months for those that may be at risk.

Although the CDC has said the potentially contaminated injections were given starting on May 21, Dreyzehner said the earliest date that people could have received the injection in Tennessee was June 27.

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include a splitting headache, fever, stiff neck, difficulty walking or worsening back pain.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious as are its more common viral and bacterial counterparts.

Tennesseans wanting to ask questions about the outbreak may contact the Tennessee Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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