The death toll linked to a meningitis outbreak has reached 15 people across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control on Sunday.
According to the center’s latest figures, 205 fungal meningitis cases have been reported, with the bulk of them in Tennessee (53), Michigan (41), Virginia (34) and Indiana (28).
Researchers have connected the outbreak to tainted steroid injections for back pain, made by a beleaguered Massachusetts compounding pharmacy. The steroid, which was injected into 14,000 people starting last May, has been recalled, as have all other products by the pharmacy.
The affected patients in 10 states have exhibited fungal meningitis symptoms including headache, fever, stiff neck and sensitivity to light, and a few have suffered strokes. The median age of those affected is 68, according to a CDC analysis of 70 of the cases released Friday.
Fungal meningitis can't be spread from person to person.
The investigation into the outbreak is ongoing, but the drug’s manufacturer, New England Compounding Center, based in Framingham, Mass., faced increased scrutiny over whether it violated state law over its drug sales.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that it had reviewed internal emails from the center showing that the facility sold drugs to doctors without seeing patients’ prescriptions first, as Massachusetts requires.
Washington lawmakers have called for a congressional investigation of the outbreak.
"This incident raises serious concerns about the scope of the practice of pharmacy compounding in the United States and the current patchwork of federal and state laws and systems that oversee this practice," Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and others wrote in a letter to the leaders of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.