Meningitis Outbreak Patients Now Experiencing Infections - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Meningitis Outbreak Patients Now Experiencing Infections

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By Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The fungal meningitis outbreak has made hundreds of Americans sick and killed 36 people, with the majority in Tennessee.

As doctors tally the numbers there's a new wave of patients they're worried about: people who are not only fighting fungal meningitis, but now infection around the site of their original steroid injection.

"Some patients were being identified much later than expected suggesting that there may still be patients with such treatable infections," said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD.

Thursday, state health officials said since Thanksgiving, they've tracked 23 cases of patients with infection deep beneath the skin. The boil-like inflammation can't be seen on the surface, and could eventually reach the nervous system and cause meningitis if left untreated.

"We're sailing in uncharted waters," said Dr. William Schaffner who specializes in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.

Schaffner says this second phase of lower back infections shows patients still have a long recovery.

"They thought they were, most of them, out of the woods because most of the patients with meningitis, those illnesses have occurred, and now they're being informed that another illness related to the same problem may occur," he said.

Symptoms include pain at the site of the injection as well as numbness or loss of bladder control, but this phase of the outbreak may not necessarily be the end.

"We can only hope that we're nearing the end, the manifestations of this contamination episode," Schaffner said.

As the problems with contaminated vials of steroid injections keeps causing issues for innocent patients.

"That's why, frankly, this is such a tragic and difficult situation for the people involved," Dreyzehner said.

Doctors will use the same medication to treat this under-skin infection, as they do with meningitis itself.

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