Lifestyle & Belief

Meningitis cases rise to 47 in US outbreak


The FDA has approved the use of a new combination vaccinate against meningitis in children as young as six weeks.


Jeff J Mitchell

A rare fungal meningitis has sickened 47 people in the USA and has killed 5 in an outbreak that has been linked to steroid injections commonly used to treat back pain.

The Boston Globe reports that health officials were scrambling to identify which clinics had received the injection, which was made by a small pharmacy in Massachusetts called the New England Compounding Center.

The drug appears to have been shipped to 75 facilities in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, says Businessweek. 17,676 doses of the steroid have been recalled.

‘‘All patients who may have received these medications need to be tracked down immediately,’’ Dr. Benjamin Park of the CDC told the Boston Globe.

‘‘It is possible that if patients with infection are identified soon and put on appropriate antifungal therapy, lives may be saved,’’ he said.

Read more from GlobalPost: Meningitis outbreak kills four people

The CDC website states that fungal meningitis occurs when a fungus spreads through the bloodstream to elsewhere in the body, reaching the spinal cord.

Common symptoms include a stiff neck, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light, and even an altered mental state. Meningitis can be fatal, and is especially dangerous for people who have comprised immune systems, including the HIV-positive.

Read more from GlobalPost: Meningitis outbreak in HIV-positive men in New York

This fungal meningitis is not contagious, unlike some other types of the spinal cord infection, and appears to only have occurred in people who received an epidural injection (in the spinal cord) for pain, says the CDC.