October 22, 2012
Deaths From Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Reach 23, Many More Infected
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The number of cases of fungal meningitis due to a contaminated injectable drug produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts has risen from 245 cases on Friday to 285 over the weekend. As well, the number of deaths have increased to 23, with 3 new deaths reported over the weekend.
While only one case was reported on Sunday, US health experts are warning it could be many months before the potentially fatal illness loses its stranglehold. Because the incubation rate for fungal meningitis varies, and the shear number of people (as many as 14,000) infected, it is not known how long it will take for the illness to subside, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Last Thursday, the CDC and FDA confirmed the fungus Exserohilum rostratum was detected in unopened vials of the preservative-free steroid methylprednisolone acetate linked to the outbreak that has so far affected 16 of the 23 states the drug had been shipped to. As many as 76 medical facilities had received the contaminated drug, which started shipping out in May. Of the 17,000 vials distributed, only 3,000 unused vials were recalled and collected, meaning the scope of this infectious nightmare could quickly expand.
As of last week, federal, state and regional health officials began urging all patients who received the steroidal injections to remain vigilant for symptoms that include: new or worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness, weakness or numbness in the extremities, slurred speech, and increased pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
Tennessee, where the first reported case of fungal meningitis derived from, currently has the most cases at 69 with 9 deaths. Tennessee was also the first state to see a lawsuit arise due to illness from contaminated injections produced by NECC.
71-year-old Janet Russell is seeking $15 million in damages after being diagnosed with fungal meningitis, she claims she contracted after receiving an injection for back pain on August 30 at St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center.
Another lawsuit has arisen since, filed against executives at NECC, aiming to freeze their accounts and assets. NECC execs Barry Cadden, Lisa Cadden, and Greg Conigliaro were named in the lawsuit.