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Meningitis outbreak grows to 91, with seven dead, CDC says

October 07, 2012|By Matt Pearce

Fungal meningitis has sickened 91 people across nine states, killing seven, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.

The outbreak seems to be growing by the day: The CDC on Saturday had reported 64 sickened.

Fungal meningitis cannot be passed from person to person, unlike some other types of the disease. 

Researchers have linked the outbreak to steroid spinal injections from three lots of methylprednisolone acetate sent to clinics in 23 states, which have since been recalled. (See a list of those clinics here.) The injections were intended to relieve back pain. 

The exact source of the contamination has not yet been pinpointed. 

Tennessee has reported the most outbreak cases, with 32; Michigan has seen 20 and Virginia, 18. The CDC said several patients injected with the contaminated steroids have had strokes.

“In addition to typical meningitis symptoms, like headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck, people with fungal meningitis may also experience confusion, dizziness, and discomfort from bright lights,” the CDC says. “Patients might just have one or two of these symptoms.”

The steroid injections are not the same as those given to women during childbirth, according to the CDC.

On Sunday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked for stronger government oversight of so-called compounding pharmacies like the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., which is thought to have produced the contaminated steroids, according to the Associated Press. Also Sunday, the pharmacy issued a voluntary recall for all its products, the news service reported. 

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