The Center for Disease Control is coordinating a multi-state investigation of meningitis among patients who received epidural steroid injections (medication injected into the spine.) A possibly contaminated medication used in epidural injections is believed to be the cause of this outbreak, which has so far, reached twenty-three states.  

The infection is known as Fungal Meningitis.  Thus far, the case count is thirty-five.  There have been six states reporting the disease, and five persons have died so far.   In patients, the meningitis was believed to be caused by a fungus that is common in the environment, but rarely causes meningitis.  This form is not contagious.  In several patients, strokes have been suffered, related to the meningitis. 

People in the states of California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and West Virginia are being asked to contact their physician or clinic if they have recently received a steroid injection in the lower back, in order to see if they received products from contaminated medication lots.  According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC officials, each one of these patients affected had been injected with a preservative-free steroid called methylprednisolone acetate manufactured by New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham Massachusetts.  NECC voluntarily recalled three lots of steroids last week, and shut down production at the entire facility on Wednesday.  The FDA is advising all health care professionals who may have NECC medications to not use any products from NECC until the investigation is over.  Health officials say approximately 75 medical facilities in 23 states have received products from NECC. 

Fungal meningitis is rare, but can be life threatening.  It is not connected to the more common forms of bacterial and viral meningitis.  People at higher risk to get this disease include those with AIDS, leukemia, or other forms of immunodeficiency and immunosuppression.  Meningitis infection is characterized by a sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck.  Other symptoms can be nausea; vomiting; photophobia (sensitivity to light) and altered mental status.  

If you or a family member or friend has had an epidural injection, please contact your physician to investigate the source of your medication.  If you are needing an epidural, it will be wise to wait until the investigation is complete.

Source: CDC, CNN News