Outbreak puts local health department on alert

No cases have been reported in South Florida

By Terrell Forney - Reporter

MIAMI - The meningitis outbreak is continuing to spread and now the Miami-Dade County Health Department is concerned after several cases turn up in Florida.

The outbreak has been linked to a steroid used commonly to treat back pain. Investigators have traced the contamination to a company in Massachusetts, called New England Compounding Centers.

Shipments had already gone out to facilities throughout the nation, including eight in Florida, which received the contaminated products.

The only two in South Florida that received a shipment are the Surgical Park Center in Kendall and the Marion Pain Management Center in Palm Beach Gardens.

"The incubation period is longer so chances are some people are still going to develop symptoms," Alvaro Mejia, of the Miami-Dade Health Department said. "People who are fine right now, might develop symptoms in the future, at least three to four weeks from now."

The local health departments have been put on alert about the meningitis scare since four cases have been confirmed in the state.

Seven have died from the disease, but so far no cases have been reported in South Florida.

But, anyone who has received pain management with steroids since July of this year should see a doctor anyway.

"It gives them the chance to be caught in time and start the medication in time," Mejia said.

The injections are usually administered in and around the spinal cord area. The Federal Drug Administration says some sealed vials contained a fungus, which spawned the rare form of meningitis.

The symptoms include headaches, fever and a stiff neck.

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