An outbreak of fungal meningitis in Minnesota has caused several people to fall seriously ill. The Minnesota Health Department estimates that 950 people were exposed, after receiving steroid shots (usually used for treating back pain) that were manufactured by New England Compounding Clinic. Although fungal meningitis is not contagious, the outbreak continues to grow because the disease has an incubation period. Furthermore, because the disease has mild symptoms, many people have undergone medical evaluations including painful spinal taps to test for the disease.
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. The number of illnesses in Minnesota has grown to 13 people.
November 5, 2012 — The number of infections in Minnesota has grown to 10 people. 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 Minnesota, the number of illnesses has grown to include 9 people. 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 — Another person has fallen ill in Minnesota, bringing the total number of illnesses to 8. Nationwide, 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 — The number of cases of fungal meningitis has grown to 308 (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 — 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 — 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 17, 2012 — In Minnesota, 7 infections have been confirmed. 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 number of illnesses in Minnesota remains constant — 5 people have fallen ill with meningitis. 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 15, 2012 — The CDC is reporting 5 cases of fungal meningitis in Minnesota. Nationwide, at least 214 illnesses have been confirmed (including 212 cases of fungal meningitis with 2 cases of joint infections) and 15 deaths in 15 different states.
October 12, 2012 — The CDC has reported 184 meningitis cases plus 1 case of joint infection. At least 14 people have died in 12 states.
October 12, 2012 — A Minnesota woman has become the first person to file a fungal meningitis lawsuit in relation to this outbreak. Click here to read more.
October 11, 2012 — There are 3 confirmed cases of fungal meningitis in Minnesota. Approximately 950 people have been exposed. Click here to learn more from the Minnesota Department of Health.
Minnesota Meningitis Outbreak
According to the Minnesota Health Department, the following facilities are known to have received steroid shots from New England Compounding Center:
- Minnesota Surgery Center: Edina, Maple Grove
- Medical Advanced Pain Specialists: Edina, Maple Grove, Fridley, Shakopee
According to the health department, the first victim was a Minnesota woman in her forties who was diagnosed with meningitis after receiving injectable steroids from New England Compounding Center.
The Minnesota Health Department is working to contact an estimated 950 people who were exposed at these clinics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 14,000 people throughout the United States have been exposed to potentially tainted steroid shots from New England Compounding Center. The shots are used to treat pain in outpatient clinics.
First Fungal Meningitis Lawsuit Filed in Minnesota
On October 11, 2012, Barbe Puro from Savage, Minnesota, became the first person to file a lawsuit against New England Compounding Center for injuries caused by recalled steroid shots. She suffers from headaches, nausea, and her future health is uncertain. She is seeking damages for her injuries. She also seeks to establish a class of injury victims in Minnesota, which could pave the way for a large-scale litigation.
What is Fungal Meningitis?
Unlike viral or bacterial meningitis, fungal meningitis is not contagious. This is why large outbreaks of fungal meningitis are very rare. The disease occurs when fungal spores get inside a person’s central nervous system (specifically, cerebrospinal fluid) and infect the protective membrane around the brain and spinal cord.
Meningitis is very serious and requires hospitalization, sometimes for several months. Powerful anti-fungal medications are delivered intravenously to fight the infection. However, even with aggressive treatment, fungal meningitis can cause serious brain damage or death.
Symptoms of Fungal Meningitis
The symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to viral or bacterial meningitis. However, fungal meningitis often has mild symptoms at first. Some patients only have a minor headache or nausea. These symptoms tend to grow gradually worse. Symptoms may not appear for several weeks or months after a patient’s exposure.
The CDC recommends that anyone who has been exposed to potentially contaminated medicines and is concerned about meningitis should contact an emergency physician.
Symptoms of fungal meningitis include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Headache that gets worse
- Stiffness in the neck
- New or worsening muscle weakness
- Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Slurred speech
- Muscle numbness
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Personality changes, confusion
- And more