Florida on alert as nationwide meningitis outbreak grows

4 cases in Florida; Infections linked to steroid injection

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The death toll in the nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis has risen to seven.

According to the Florida Department of Health, four Florida residents have contracted the infection, which is linked to a widely distributed steroid injection for back pain.

"Our department has asked the facilities to contact all patients who may have been treated with the implicated product; to identify patients with neurologic illness in need of testing and treatment," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong.

As of Saturday, there were 47 cases in seven states, including Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan and Indiana.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, patients who have had an epidural steroid injection since July 2012, and have any of the following symptoms, should talk to their doctor as soon as possible:

  • Worsening headache
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • New weakness or numbness in any part of your body
  • Slurred speech

The CDC said the outbreak, which is not transmitted from person to person, stems from contaminated product shipped to facilities. Health officials are working with the facilities to determine if there are additional cases of the meningitis and have quarantined the medication. Officials said the following eight facilities in Florida have been identified to have received the shipments from one or more of the CDC-identified contaminated lot numbers:

  • Surgical Park Center, Miami
  • North County Surgicenter, Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery, Orlando, Fla.
  • Marion Pain Management Center, Ocala, Fla.
  • Florida Pain Clinic, Ocala, Fla.
  • Surgery Center of Ocala, Ocala, Fla.
  • International Rehab Center, Pensacola, Fla.
  • Pain Consultants of West Florida, Pensacola, Fla.

Meningitis causes an infection to the membrane around the spinal cord and brain. Unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, fungal meningitis is not contagious.

Scientists with the Centers for Disease Control blame the outbreak on the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. The pharmacy apparently produced fungus-contaminated steroids, specifically Methylprednisolone Acetate, or prednisone.

The pharmacy in question shipped some 17,000 doses across 23 states, including Florida, starting in July. Doctors are now trying to identify meningitis symptoms that can take up to four weeks to develop in patients.

Patients that contracted meningitis from the medication received a shot straight into their spine for back pain.

The medication linked to the outbreak was recalled last week, but the CDC has asked health care providers to stop using all drugs from the New England Compounding Center and to contact any patient who received the contaminated medication.

Several companies manufacture Methylprednisolone Acetate, so patients who are unsure whether they received the contaminated doses are urged to call their health care provider.

The lots of medication that were used on infected patients are:

  • Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) 80 mg/ml Injection, Lot #05212012@68, BUD 11/17/2012
  • Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) 80 mg/ml Injection, Lot #06292012@26, BUD 12/26/2012
  • Methylprednisolone Acetate (PF) 80 mg/ml Injection, Lot #08102012@51, BUD 2/6/2013

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