The extent of the fungal meningitis outbreak linked to an injectable steroid product has widened as more states report sickened patients and more facilities identify cases that used the contaminated drugs.
According to the latest reports, 8 patients have died and 105 others were infected after being injected with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate during outpatient lumbar epidural procedures.
Certain lots of the drug, produced by Framingham, Mass.-based New England Compounding Center, are determined to have been contaminated with the fungus Aspergillus, which sparked the outbreak. The affected lots were shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states from July to September, but as yet only 9 states have reported resulting patient illnesses or death. A nationwide recall of the drug — as well as all of the company's products — is underway, and the company has voluntarily ceased production.
The outbreak was first detected in Tennessee, which has seen 3 deaths and 32 illnesses. Michigan has reported 2 deaths and 20 illnesses, Maryland and Virginia 1 death each. Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio have also reported sickened patients. Other states whose facilities have used the drugs are in the process of contacting patients.
Unlike viral or bacterial strains of the disease, fungal meningitis is not contagious. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending healthcare facilities to avoid using — but to retain and secure — any products obtained through the New England Compounding Company until further notice.
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