Fungal Meningitis Outbreak: What You Need To Know

Health officials in multiple states, including Ohio, are dealing with an outbreak of fungal meningitis they believe came from spinal steroid injections.

Health officials across the country are dealing with an outbreak of a deadly strain of fungal meningitis linked to spinal steroid injections given for back pain.

The rare meningitis strain has infected more than 90 people and led to five deaths already, and officials expect more cases to emerge, according to NBC News.

Officials with the Centers For Disease Control say the injections linked to the outbreak were shipped to 23 states, including Ohio, reports the Washington Post.

Cases have been reported in nine states.

Here's what you need to know about the outbreak:

What is fungal meningitis? Fungal meningitis occurs when the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus.  Fungal meningitis can develop after a fungus spreads through the bloodstream from somewhere else in the body, as a result of the fungus being introduced directly into the central nervous system, or by direct extension from an infected body site next to the central nervous system. 

What are the symptoms of fungal meningitis? Symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to symptoms of other forms of meningitis, however they often appear more gradually and can be very mild at first.  In addition to typical meningitis symptoms, like headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck, people with fungal meningitis may also experience confusion, dizziness, and discomfort from bright lights. Patients might just have one or two of these symptoms.

Is it contagious? No. This form of meningitis is not contagious.

Is the source of the outbreak known? The CDC says there is not enough evidence to determine the original source of the outbreak. However, there is a link to an injectable steroid give as early as May 21. That steroid was voluntarily recalled by its manufacturer, New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.

What is the injection in question? The CDC wants doctors to "actively contact" patients who received " medicines associated with three lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (80mg/ml) recalled on September 26. The potentially contaminated injections were given starting May 21, 2012. Symptoms that should prompt diagnostic evaluation include: fever, new or worsening headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, new weakness or numbness, increasing pain, redness or swelling of the injection site.

What are the states that received the implicated product? California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and West Virginia

I had a steroid injection. Should I see my doctor? Health officials ask anyone who had a spinal injection for pain and who has symptoms such as a headache, stiff neck, dizziness or trouble walking to see a doctor right away.


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