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Meningitis outbreak worsens, with four more dead

October 17, 2012|By Jon Bardin
  • More cases of meningitis from tainted steroid medication were announced by the CDC on Wednesday. Above, a map showing reported cases.
More cases of meningitis from tainted steroid medication were announced… (Centers for Disease Control…)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have linked four more deaths to the fungal meningitis outbreak caused by a batch of tainted steroid medicine, bringing the total dead to 19. Two of the new deaths were in Tennessee, with one each in Virginia and Florida.

Fungal meningitis is an extremely dangerous, non-contagious infection of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. It often causes the brain to swell.

The announcement by the CDC came the same day Food and Drug Administration authorities raided the Massachusetts offices of New England Compounding Center, the company at the center of the scandal.

Authorities also announced an additional14 cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 245, an indication that the outbreak may not be over. Health officials have been struggling to contact people who received the steroid injections, but approximately 14,000 patients are believed to be at risk, and it has been difficult to reach all of them.

NECC is a compounding pharmacy, meaning it mixes drugs produced elsewhere into custom formulas. They are not strictly regulated, a situation the Washington Post called "a lapse in the responsibility of government" in an editorial Tuesday.

The FDA has yet to determine how the medication was contaminated.

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