A multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis has been linked to epidural steroid injections given to relieve back pain. The cause of the outbreak is not completely clear but officials suspect that three lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate manufactured by New England Compunding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts are involved. So far, there have been 35 cases of fungal meningitis identified in 6 states (most were in Tennessee, and others in Virginia, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana). There also have been 5 deaths. However, the affected lots were shipped to 23 states. The number of affected patients and states may change and can be followed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Meningitis is a condition that involves inflammation of the meninges (protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord). Fungal meningitis develops after a fungus infects the meninges. The fungus, which ultimately results in fungal meningitis, can spread through the bloodstream from elsewhere in the body, can be introduced directly in the central nervous system, or can be an extension of an infected part of the body next to the central nervous system. Symptoms of fungal meningitis include headache, fever, nausea, neck stiffness, confusion, dizziness, and uneasiness caused by bright lights. Of the patients affected in the current outbreak, symptoms developed between 1 and 4 weeks after the epidural steroid injection.
- Epidural Steroid Injection, from Orthopedics Guide at About.com
- Facts of Corticosteroids
- More About Back Pain
- Back Pain Quiz
Photo by Pali Rao (iStockphoto)
UPDATE: 10/08/12 - There are currently 91 cases, 7 deaths and 9 states involved in the meningitis outbreak. The New England Compounding Center has voluntarily expanded its recall to include all products currently in circulation that were compounded at and distributed from its facility.