An outbreak of fungal meningitis has sickened hundreds of people and killed dozens. The outbreak has been traced to tainted medicines produced by New England Compounding Center. The company has recalled all lots of all medicines sold by the company. Most illnesses have been linked to epidural steroid shots. However, several illnesses have been linked to other medications sold by the company.
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 cases of fungal meningitis in New Jersey has grown to 33 people.
November 5, 2012 — The number of infections in New Jersey has grown to 24 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 New Jersey, the number of illnesses remains constant at 18. 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 number of illnesses in New Jersey has grown to 18. 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 New Jersey, the number of cases of fungal meningitis has grown to 17. 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 New Jersey, 16 people have fallen ill 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 — 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 New Jersey, 13 people have been sickened in the outbreak of fungal meningitis. 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 New Jersey, at least 12 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 has grown to 10 in New Jersey. 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 — At least 8 illnesses have been confirmed in New Jersey. 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.
New Jersey Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following New Jersey clinics received epidural steroid shots from New England Compounding Center:
- Central Jersey Orthopedics Specialists PC (South Plainfield)
- Edison Surgical Center (Edison)
- IF Pain Associataes / Isaiah Florence (Teaneck)
- Premier Orthopedics Surg. Assoc., LLC (Vineland)
- Comprehensive Pain Management (Sparta)
- South Jersey Health Care (Elmer, Vineland)
The earliest known case of fungal meningitis occurred on May 21, 2012. Anyone who has been treated at these clinics since May 21 and is concerned about meningitis should contact their physician to find out if they were treated with a medicine from New England Compounding Center.
New England Compounding Center Recalls Medicines
The source of the fungal meningitis outbreak has been traced to New England Compounding Center, a company based in Massachusetts that mixed large volumes of custom medications and sold them throughout the United States. Most people have been sickened by epidural steroid shots (methylprednisolone acetate), which are injected into a person’s spine to treat back pain. These shots were recalled on September 26, 2012.
On October 5, 2012, New England Compounding Center recalled all lots of all medicines. On October 15, 2012, the FDA announced that at least three people have been sickened by products other than methylprednisolone acetate. One person received another type of steroid shot, and two people were treated with a contaminated medication during heart surgery.
Symptoms of Fungal Meningitis
Most people have been sickened by fungal meningitis, a life-threatening disease that occurs when fungal spores get into a person’s cerebrospinal fluid and cause inflammation, swelling, and infection of the meninges (protective covering around the brain and spinal cord).
Symptoms of fungal meningitis include:
- Stiff neck
- Nausea, vomiting
- Photophobia (light sensitivity)
- Altered mental status
The FDA is also warning people to be on the lookout for symptoms of other types of infections. New England Compounding Center has recalled more than 1,200 different products which are used in a variety of procedures — everything from topical creams to medicines used during open heart surgery.
Symptoms of other infections may include:
- Increasing pain, redness, warmth at the injection site
- Visual changes
- Redness or discharge from the eye
- Chest pain
- Drainage from surgical site