Potentially contaminated medicines produced by New England Compounding Center have been linked to a massive nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis. Hundreds of people have been sickened and at least 34 have died. Although the medicines have been recalled, the number of illnesses continues to grow because meningitis and fungal infections often have an incubation period of several weeks.
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 Ohio has grown to 18 people.
November 5, 2012 — The number of infections in Ohio has grown to 16 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 Ohio, the number of illnesses remains at 11. 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 Ohio remains constant at 11. 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 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 — 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 illnesses in Ohio remains constant at 11 people.
October 19, 2012 — 11 people have been sickened with fungal infections in Ohio. 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 Ohio, 10 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 Ohio, at least 9 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 7 in Ohio. 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 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 5 illnesses in Ohio. Nationwide, this outbreak of fungal meningitis has sickened 214 people (including 212 with meningitis, and 2 with joint infections) and killed 15 people in 15 states.
Outbreak of Fungal Meningitis in Ohio
The Ohio Department of Health has reported that 427 people received injections of medicine from New England Compounding Center. Nearly all of these people have been successfully contacted.
According to Dr. Ted Eymyslo, Director of ODH, “This outreach and contact with healthcare providers needs to continue even if the patient is feeling well during the initial conversation. Because of the rare nature of this infection, no one is sure of the incubation period; we don’t know how long after an injection it is safe to say you won’t get sick.”
Health Department officials have also identified four clinics in Ohio that received possibly tainted drugs, including:
- BKC Pain Specialists, LLC (Marion)
- Cincinnati Pain Management (Cincinnati)
- Marion Pain Clinic (Marion)
- Ortho-Spine Rehabilitation Center (Dublin)
New England Compounding Center Recalls Medicines
The medicines implicated in the outbreak are primarily epidural steroid shots. These medications are typically injected into a patient’s spine to ease back pain. New England Compounding Center (NECC) voluntarily recalled these medications on September 26.
NECC expanded the recall on October 5 to include all lots of all medications sold by the company. On October 15, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that they received the first reports of people who were sickened by NECC medications other than the epidural steroid injections.
Symptoms of Fungal Meningitis Infection
Potentially tainted medications from New England Compounding Center have been linked to fungal meningitis, a type of brain infection that can cause neurological impairment, stroke, and death. According to the CDC, early symptoms of fungal meningitis may be mild, and they may include:
- Worsening headache
- Stiff neck
- Altered mental status
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- And more
Symptoms of other types of infections (which could also be caused by contaminated medicines from NECC) include:
- Pain, redness, or warmth at the injection site that gets worse
- Changes in vision
- Eye discharge / redness
- Chest pain
- Drainage from surgical site