- The recent outbreak of fungal meningitis has led to 28 deaths and 363 cases across 19 states.
- The outbreak is linked to a potentially contaminated steroid produced by the New England Compounding Center. The steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, is typically used to treat back and joint pain.
- Violation of cleanliness standards and product sterility have been identified as key contributing factors to the outbreak.
- Around 14,000 patients might have been exposed to the contaminated steroid and have been urged to seek medical consultation. Symptoms to watch out for include: worsening headache, fever, light sensitivity, stiff neck, new weakness or numbness, and slurred speech.
- The New England Compounding Center has halted distribution of the drug and its operations have been discontinued. The onslaught of new cases is expected to increase, given that symptoms can take up to a month or more to appear.
The number of fatalities due to the consequential outbreak of fungal meningitis has reached 28, while a total of 363 cases have been reported across 19 states.
Recent Fatalities and Inspections
Two individuals from Michigan and one from Tennessee, lost their lives due to this outbreak. This unsettling report follows closely after inspections and subsequent shut-down of compounding pharmacies, believed to be the source of the rampant meningitis outbreak.
Regulators in Massachusetts recently shut down Infusion Resource, a compounding pharmacy, after inspection revealed conditions that were possibly compromising the sterility of its products. The pharmacy was found in violation of state law as patients were found to be receiving intravenous medications there.
Violation of Product Sterility
In parallel news, a noteworthy contamination catastrophe arose from the New England Compounding Center, where unsanitary conditions led to the presence of foreign “greenish-black” and filamentous material in some vials of the injectable steroid. This steroid is being investigated as a potential cause of the meningitis outbreak. Worrying instances of negligence and lack of control were noted during detailed inspections. It was discovered that conditions like room cleanliness to keep airborne particles and surface contamination in check, were blatantly disregarded.
New England Compounding Center under Scrutiny
An alarming revelation supported by federal health officials stated that the fungus present in the steroid injections produced by the New England Compounding Center, matched the one connected to the meningitis outbreak. The steroidal drug, methylprednisolone acetate, is usually administered to patients for back and joint pain.
The subsequent distribution of this drug has been halted and operations have been discontinued at the New England Compounding Center.
Impact and Lines of Action
Altogether around 14,000 patients might have received steroid injections from the lots supplied by the affected pharmacy, with almost 97% of them having been contacted for medical follow up. It is crucial to note that everyone receiving an injection from or produced by this centre should seek immediate health consultation.
These meningitis infections particularly pose a high risk when injected near the spine for back pain as compared to peripheral joint infections, which involve knee, hip, shoulder or elbow.
Statistics of the Meningitis Outbreak
The state-wise breakdown of reported cases is as follows:
Florida: 23 cases (3 deaths), Georgia: 1 case, Idaho: 1 case, Illinois: 1 case, Indiana: 45 cases (3 deaths), Maryland: 20 cases (1 death), Michigan: 93 cases (7 deaths), Minnesota: 10 cases, New Hampshire: 11 cases, New Jersey: 18 cases, New York: 1 case, North Carolina: 3 cases (1 death), Ohio: 14 cases, Pennsylvania: 1 case, Rhode Island: 1 case, South Carolina: 1 case, Tennessee: 74 cases (11 deaths), Texas: 1 case, and Virginia: 44 cases (2 deaths).
Symptoms and Precautions
Patients are advised to consult a doctor immediately if they observe symptoms such as a worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, new weakness or numbness in any part of their body, or experience slurred speech, after receiving a steroid injection.
Infected patients need to be admitted to a hospital for treatment with intravenous drugs. Despite these measures, health officials are preparing for an increase in meningitis cases, given that symptoms can take up to a month or more to appear.
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