91 people in 9 states contracted a deadly form of fungal meningitis from a tainted drug shipment. The outbreak killed at least 7 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. The New England pharmacy linked to the steroid drugs responsible for the outbreaks has issued a recall of the drug nationwide.
The states with reported cases of fungal meningitis are Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, MAryland, Michigan and Minnesota.
Steroid medication can weaken the immune systems of patients who receive the drug.
Over the weekend I learned that the mother-in-law of one of my cousins is among the victims who contracted fungal meningitis from Solu-Medrol, an anti-inflammatory steroid drug that is administered intravenously.
Solu-Medrol, Medrol or Methylprednisolone (a form of Prednisone) is used to treat people with organ transplants and a variety of inflammatory (painful) conditions including Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Lupus, Restless leg syndrome, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, and more. The drug is administered intravenously (IV) or via injections.
The New England Compounding Center issued the recall of Methylprednisolone acetate on Saturday. A spokesman for the pharmacy said the recall was issued as a precaution, and that none of their other drugs are contaminated. But the Food and Drug administration has advised doctors not to use any of the NECC's drug products.
Drugs are tainted with fungus or bacteria at the manufacturing plant when strict sanitary procedures are not followed properly.
76 medical facilities in 23 states received shipments of Methylprednisolone acetate from NECC. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people are believed to have received doses of the medication.
Fungal meningitis is not contagious. It is an infection of the membranes (thin tissue covering) of the brain and spinal cord. Affected patients begin showing symptoms 1 to 4 weeks after receiving the injections or IV.
The symptoms include severe headache, nausea and vomiting, and fever. As the disease advances, patients experience neck stiffness (nuchal rigidity); intolerance to bright lights or noise, altered mental status, confusion, decreased mobility and seizures.
If you or anyone you know received intravenous or injectable prednisolone acetate within the last 45 days, contact your physician immediately. This has been your Medical Minute.
Info on the Web
Meninigitis - NIH
Fungal Meningitis - CDC
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