Contaminated medications from New England Compounding Center have been implicated in a multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis that has sickened hundreds of people and caused many deaths. Dozens of illnesses have occurred in Virginia. Experts are now recommending that anyone who has had an epidural steroid injection since May 2012 should contact a doctor if they are concerned about 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 Virginia, 50 people have fallen ill with meningitis and 2 have died.
November 5, 2012 — The number of infections in Virginia has grown to 49 people, of whom 2 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. 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 Virginia has grown to 43, and 2 people have died. 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 — In Virginia, 41 people have fallen ill and 2 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 — 38 people have been sickened and 2 people have died in an outbreak of fungal meningitis in Virginia. 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 Virginia, 37 people have been sickened in the outbreak of fungal meningitis and 2 people have 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 Virginia, 37 infections and 2 deaths 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 CDC is reporting that 35 people have fallen ill and 1 person has died of fungal meningitis in Virginia. 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 34 illnesses and 1 death have been confirmed in Virginia. 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 — 33 illnesses and 1 death have been reported in Virginia. 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 — 30 illnesses and 1 death have been confirmed in Virginia. Nationwide, 170 people have been sickened and 14 have died.
October 9, 2012 — 24 illnesses and 1 death have been confirmed in Virginia. Nationwide, 119 people have been sickened and 11 people have died.
October 8, 2012 — The Virginia Department of Health has confirmed 23 illnesses and 1 death associated with the outbreak. The two facilities that administered injections are working to contact people who were injected with the contaminated products. Click here to learn more from the Virginia Department of Health.
Virginia Meningitis Outbreak
The Virginia meningitis outbreak has been traced to two facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- Insight Imaging (Roanoke)
- New River Valley Surgery Center (Christiansburg)
According to the Virginia Health Department:
“Both facilities have contacted their patients who received this medication via any route of injection between July 2012 and September 2012. Insight Imaging in Roanoke contacted more than 600 patients and New River Valley Surgery Center in Christiansburg contacted less than 30 patients.”
The CDC has since pushed back the date of known exposures to May 21, 2012.
Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has isolated spores of the Aspergillus fumigatis fungus from one person who fell ill after receiving the contaminated epidural spinal injections. The fungus is typically found in leaf mold, and rarely causes illness.
The contaminated products were sold by New England Compounding Center — a company that mixes and sells custom medications for clinics. The facility did not mix preservatives into the medications. At least 13,000 people were exposed to the products, at 75 facilities in 23 states. The company, in cooperation with the CDC and FDA, has voluntarily ceased operations and rescinded their license.
What is Fungal Meningitis?
Fungal meningitis is a non-contagious disease that occurs when fungal spores enter a person’s central nervous system, contaminate cerebrospinal fluid, and cause inflammation of the meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). Severe cases can cause permanent neurological impairment, stroke, and death.
It is very rare for people to get fungal meningitis, and outbreaks of the disease are even more rare. Fungal meningitis normally only affects people with weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV), but this recent outbreak has affected people who were healthy. The problem is that epidural steroid injections introduce the fungal spores directly into a person’s cerebrospinal fluid in the spine, and it can easily travel to the brain.
People who have fungal meningitis require intensive treatment with anti-fungal medications, often delivered intravenously, or via a stent directly into the brain. It may take several months to recover from the disease.
Symptoms of Fungal Meningitis
The symptoms of fungal meningitis are often very mild at first. Experts recommend that anyone who has had a steroid injection within the last few months should be on the lookout for symptoms of fungal meningitis. These symptoms may include:
- Nausea, vomiting
- Headache that gets worse
- Stiffness in the neck
- Problems with speech and balance
- Changes in personality
- Sensitivity to light
- Redness or swelling of the injection site
- New weakness or numbness
- And more