10.04.2012

Steroid product prime suspect in meningitis outbreak investigation

Editor’s Note: As of October, 24, 328 cases and 24 deaths have been reported.

An injectible steroid product used to treat pain and inflammation is the prime suspect in an investigation of an outbreak of meningitis that has sickened 26 people and has killed four people in five states.

According to CNN, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday that 18 cases of a non-contagious, fungal form of meningitis were found in Tennessee; three in Virginia; two each in Florida and Maryland; and one in North Carolina. Two people have died in Tennessee, one in Virginia and one in Maryland. To date there have been no cases reported in Pennsylvania.

All of those infected had received steroid injections to the spine. Tennessee State Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner said officials believe methylprednisolone acetate, an injectible steroid product used to treat pain and inflammation, is responsible for the meningitis outbreak. New England Compounding Center (NECC) has conducted a voluntary recall of three lots of methylprednisolone acetate 80mg/mlinjection produced at NECC. The lot numbers are #05212012@68, #06292012@26 and #08102012@51.
The investigation is ongoing between the FDA, state health departments and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy. Dreyzehner said more cases are expected since the infection can take up to 28 days to develop.

Meningitis is a general term for swelling of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spine. The swelling is typically caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungus, although meningitis also be caused by injury, cancer or medications. For this type of meningitis, symptoms include worsening to severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever, Dreyzehner said. Other symptoms can include slurred speech, unsteady gait, urinary retention, weakness and sensory deficit.

To read the CNN story in its entirety, go to the health section of www.cnn.com

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