The Florida Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a deadly, multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to epidural steroid injections. The injections are commonly administered in outpatient clinics to people suffering from lower back pain. Experts are now asking anyone who has had an injection since May 21, 2012 to seek emergency medical attention if they show symptoms of meningitis.
November 26, 2012 — The current case count from the CDC involves 490 cases of fungal meningitis, 12 peripheral joint infections, and 34 deaths in 19 states. In Florida, at least 24 people have fallen ill with meningitis, and 3 of these people have died.
November 5, 2012 — The number of infections in Florida has grown to 23 people, of whom 3 have died. The nationwide total is 419 illnesses (including 10 joint infections) and 30 deaths in 19 states. As the incubation period ends, it is likely that the number of new cases will taper off. However, people with the disease may continue to require treatment for several months or more.
October 26, 2012 — The outbreak of fungal meningitis continues to spread, with more cases of joint infections. In Florida, 19 people have fallen ill and 3 have died. The CDC reports a total of 338 infections, including 7 peripheral joint infections and 331 cases of meningitis, stroke, or central nervous system infection. Of these, at least 25 people have died in 18 states.
October 25, 2012 — The CDC is reporting 328 infections linked to contaminated medicines (including 5 peripheral joint infections and 323 cases of fungal meningitis, stroke, or infection) including 24 deaths in 18 states.
October 24, 2012 — The CDC reports that, nationwide, 317 people have been infected (312 cases of fungal meningitis, stroke, or central nervous system infection, and 5 cases of peripheral joint infections), 24 people have died in 17 states. CDC is reporting that new cases are more mild. It has been more than 1 month since NECC medicines were recalled; fungal meningitis has an unknown incubation period and illnesses could continue.
October 23, 2012 — In Florida, the number of cases of fungal meningitis has grown to 19, including 3 deaths. Nationwide, the CDC is reporting 308 cases (including 304 cases of fungal meningitis, stroke, or other central nervous system infection, and 4 cases of peripheral joint infections). Of these, 23 people have died in 17 states.
October 22, 2012 — In Florida, 17 people have fallen ill and 3 have died in an outbreak of fungal meningitis. The CDC is reporting that the number of illnesses has grown to 297 (including 294 cases of fungal meningitis and 3 peripheral joint infections) and 23 deaths. The number of states involved remains at 16.
October 19, 2012 — 17 people have been sickened and 3 people have died in an outbreak of fungal meningitis in Florida. The CDC is reporting that, nationwide, 271 people have fallen ill (including 268 cases of fungal meningitis or stroke, and 3 joint infections). Of these, at least 21 have died. 16 states are involved in the outbreak.
October 18, 2012 — In Florida, 13 people have been sickened in the outbreak of fungal meningitis and 1 person has died. Nationwide, 257 people in 16 states have fallen ill (including 254 with fungal meningitis, stroke, or infection, and 3 with peripheral joint infections), and 20 people have died.
October 17, 2012 — In Florida, the number of illnesses and deaths linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis continues to grow. At least 13 people have fallen ill and 3 people have died. Nationwide, 247 people have fallen ill (including 245 cases of fungal meningitis, stroke, or other central-nervous system fungal infection; and 2 joint infections). Of these, 19 people have died in 15 states.
October 16, 2012 — The CDC is reporting that 12 people have fallen ill and 2 people have died of fungal meningitis in Florida. Nationwide, 233 people have been infected — including 231 cases of fungal meningitis and 2 cases of joint infections. At least 15 people have died in 15 states.
October 16, 2012 — A fungal meningitis lawsuit has been filed in Florida. Click here to read more.
October 15, 2012 — At least 10 illnesses and 2 deaths have been confirmed in Florida. Nationwide, the CDC is reporting 214 illnesses (212 cases of fungal meningitis with 2 cases of joint infections) and 15 deaths in 15 different states.
October 12, 2012 — 9 illnesses and 2 deaths have been reported in Florida. The CDC has confirmed 184 meningitis cases plus 1 case of joint infection. At least 14 people have died in 12 states.
October 11, 2012 — 7 illnesses and 2 deaths has been confirmed in Florida. Nationwide, 170 people have been sickened and 14 have died.
October 8, 2012 — The Florida Department of Health has reported that 4 people have fallen ill with fungal meningitis in Florida. The total number of people who have fallen ill is 105 — including 8 deaths. Click here to learn more from the Florida Department of Community Health.
Florida Meningitis Outbreak
The following clinics have received products from New England Compounding Center that may have been contaminated:
- Florida Pain Clinic (Ocala)
- Interventional Rehab Center (Pensacola)
- Marion Pain Management Center (Ocala)
- North County Surgcenter (Palm Beach Gardens)
- Orlando Center for Outpatient Surgery (Orlando)
- Pain Consultants of West Florida (Pensacola)
- Surgery Center of Ocala (Ocala)
- Surgical Park Center (Miami)
All four Florida residents who fell ill reside in Marion County.
New England Compounding Center has recalled its entire product line due to potential contamination. The company has also recalled three lots of methylprednisolone acetate, an epidural steroid injection commonly used in outpatient clinics to treat lower back pain.
According to Dr. John Armstrong, Florida State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health,
“We continue to be vigilant in our efforts to protect the health and safety of Floridians. We are working in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our health partners and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to ensure that no NECC medications are present in any health care setting in Florida.”
What is Fungal Meningitis?
Meningitis is a disease caused by inflammation of the meninges, which is the protective membrane around the brain and spinal cord. Inflammation can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or a fungus. Fungal meningitis is one of the rarest types of meningitis, and normally only occurs in people who have a very weak immune system (such as those with HIV). Outbreaks of fungal meningitis are even more rare.
People with this disease must receive treatment in a hospital, usually in an intensive care unit. Intravenous anti-fungal medications are used to fight the disease. Unfortunately, fungal meningitis can have severe complications — including permanent neurological impairment, stroke, abscesses, and death.
Symptoms of Fungal Meningitis
The Florida Department of Health warns people to watch for the following symptoms of meningitis and stroke, which is a life-threatening complication of meningitis. According to Health Department officials:
“Infected patients have presented approximately one to four weeks following their injections with a variety of symptoms including but not limited to: fever, new or worsening headache, neck pain, nausea and/or new symptoms consistent with a stroke (including weakness on one side of the body and slurred speech). Some of these symptoms may be mild, yet should still be reported to a health care professional.”
The CDC also warns that the symptoms of fungal meningitis may be mild at first. Additional symptoms to watch for include, but are not limited to:
- Headache that gets worse
- Pain and redness at the injection site
- Stiffness in the neck
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Difficulty balancing