National News

CDC: More than 90 people ill with meningitis

Posted October 7, 2012 2:32 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2012 6:11 p.m. EDT

Editor's Note: WRAL reported that the Wilson Surgical Center received doses of the steroid linked to a rare fungal meningitis. We apologize for that error. It's actually the Surgery Center of Wilson on Medical Park Drive.* That center is working with the health department to monitor patients.

Health officials say they have confirmed more than 90 cases of a rare fungal meningitis that has been linked to a steroid commonly used to ease back pain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted updated figures to its website Sunday. The death toll stood at 7, the same number as a day earlier. The outbreak is spread across nine states, the same states reported Saturday: Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

The CDC figures show there are 91 cases in the U.S. altogether.

The steroid linked to the outbreak has been recalled, and health officials have been scrambling to notify anyone who may have received an injection of it. The Massachusetts pharmacy that made it announced a voluntary recall of all its products Saturday. The company said the move was a precaution, but there is no indication that any other products have been contaminated.

In North Carolina, two confirmed cases have been diagnosed, and three North Carolina clinics are warning patients to look for symptoms of the potentially fatal disease, state health officials said Friday.

The patients who are being warned received spinal injections of drugs from a supplier suspected in the outbreak at High Point Surgery Center and the Surgery Center of Wilson on Medical Park Drive* during July, August and September, state Department of Health and Human Services said.

At least 94 patients received shots from the affected batch of drugs between July 1 and Sept. 30, said Zack Moore, state medical epidemiologist.

"The cases that we know about, most don't seem to develop symptoms until about one to four weeks – but mostly about three weeks after the injections – so I'd say we're not out of the woods yet," Moore said.

About 70 patients had been treated at the subsidiary of the High Point Regional Health System, spokeswoman Tracie Blackmon said.

About four-dozen people in seven states have contracted fungal meningitis, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Five of them have died.

The North Carolina Orthopedic Clinic in Durham also used the suspect medication, but for pain-relieving joint injections, state health officials said. All the cases of fungal meningitis in the outbreak have come from spinal injections, DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry said. Health officials did not know how many patients received joint injections with the suspect medication at the Durham clinic, she said.

Health officials have decided not to disclose where the two meningitis patients received injections, but the victims were treated in North Carolina, Henry said.

The type of epidural medication given to patients involved in the outbreak is not the same type that's given to women during childbirth, state health officials said.