Articles Posted in Meningitis Outbreak

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The infected tally continues to rise for the fungal meningitis outbreak that has swept part of the country in the last months, including in Illinois. For those unfamiliar with the situation, earlier this year the New England Compounding Center sent thousands of vials of a spinal steroid to clinics that were infected with a fungus. All told, nearly 14,000 injections using those contaminated products were then given to unsuspecting patients at the clinics. As a result, hundreds of patients eventually developed a rare, and life-threatening form of fungal meningitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of certain protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord.

According to the most recent statistics published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 480 people have been infected with the fungal meningitis since the outbreak began. On top of that, a shocking 33 people have died because of the situation. Those deaths are largely attributable to complications which themselves were triggered by the meningitis–most notabley, strokes. So far, at least two of the infected parties were located in Illinois. As we previously noted, three different clinics in Chicago and Illinois were known to have given out the infected drugs.

Investigations Continue

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has obvioulsy been keeping close tabs on all of the developments connected to the contamination issues out of the New England Compounding Center (NECC). As readers know, poor sanitation conditions at the center allowed for contamination of various medications made at the facility and shipped to various locations across the country. The most high-profile of those contaminations involved spinal steroid injections given to patients at clincs for back pain.

A fungus was present in many of the vials, and an estimated 14,000 were actually given out to patients unknowingly. In our state, the Illinois Department of Public Health estimates that around 350 people received the pain injections that were contaminated by the NECC. Sadly, in the latest CDC report, another Illinois resident was found to have developed fungal meningitis as a result of recieving that tainted medication. It is unclear if more local residents will be infected. However, fungal meningitis is rare and comes with a long latency period. That means that some residents who received the injections may not show signs of having developed the meningitis until later.

All told, according to the latest CDC tallies (which are updated frequently), over 400 people across the country have developed fungal meningitis as a result of this single case of spinal steroid drugs. In addition, another 29 have died as a result of the problem. The deaths are most often connected to stroke complications, with the stroke having been triggered by the meningitis. Medical experts explain that the older and less healthy the patient, the more potential harm that could come from the meningitis.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released information this weekend on the results of its latest investigations into conduct at the New England Compounding Center (NECC). Of course the NECC is the “drug mixing” company at the center of the fungal meningitis outbreak. Contamination of thousands of vials of a spinal steroid injection led to hundreds of patients developing the serious brain and spinal cord membrane inflammation. At least two dozen have already died as a result of this fiasco. Obviously the FDA will be heavily scrutinizing the facility to determine exactly how this tragedy developed so that similar diasters are prevented in the future.

New FDA Report

According to the Wall Street Journal, the latest FDA report on the facility offers clear evidence that sanitary conditions at the facility were far from ideal. Shockingly, the FDA report explains that about a quarter of the vials examined by investigators contained a greenish-black substance that seemed an obvious indicator of unsafe products. In total fifty individual vials were sent out for testing to check on their safety. The result indicated the scope of the contamination problem at the NECCC: all fifty vials were found to contain fungus. It is no wonder then that the total injury count continues to rise from the outbreak–thousands of vials were likely unsafe.

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More and more information is being released on the pharmacuetical compounding plant at the center of the fungal meningitis outbreak. The details are not pretty. It is becoming clearer that the facility was operating in such a way that a serious contamination was likely to occur. In addition, the risks at the plant were not without precedent. Previous concerns were raised about the safety of the facility and investigations revealed problems. Those obvious warning signs notwithstanding, not enough was done to ensure the plant made permanent changes to keep products safe. All of this led to the current predicament, with thousands of contaminated spinal steroid injections affected hundreds of patients with fungal meningitis, killing at least 23 so far, and leaving thousands more waiting in worry before learning if they contracted the condition.

This sort of outbreak is unacceptable, and everything reasonable needs to be done to ensure changes are made that will help those affected, hold responsible parties accountable, and force changes to ensure something like this never happens again.

Warning Signs

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The infection toll and death toll in the fungal meningitis outbreak continues to rise. According to a story on the matter in the New York Times this week, the latest tally is at 282 patients who have contracted meningitis, with 23 deaths. These numbers represent a steady rise since the matter first burst into the public consciousness a few weeks ago. The New England compounding plant at the heart of the controversy has been temproarily closed and the main problem drugs–spinal steroid injections–have been recalled.

However, one sad reality of this fiasco is that the matter is far from over. That is because fungal meningitis has a rather long latency period. That means that the fungus can incubate in the body for weeks (or even months!) before manifesting itself into signs or symptoms that the patients might actually notice. This means that many more patients may ultiamtely contract the condition. Medical experts working on the situation note that at least 14,000 are still waiting in limbo after receiving the spinal steroid injection–usually given for pain in the back.

This waiting game is an often under-appreciated aspect of these vast drug errors and pharmaceutical recalls. All of us appreciate the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual toll that waiting to hear potentially bad news has on an individual. Just like sitting in a medical waiting room worrying about whether a loved one will make it out of surgery successfully, families waiting to hear news of meningitis development must similarly suffer.

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More news continues to emerge regarding the growing fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated epidural pain control injections. As we’ve previously explained meningitis is an inflammation of the “meninges” membrane around the brain and spinal cord. Most of the time meningitis is caused by a virus or bacteria. However, on some occassion, like in this incident, it can be caused by a different pathogen–fungus.

According to a new NBC News report the total infected count from the outbreak continues to rise. It is now at 247 total patients, with nineteen deaths. Officials explain that usually those who were the sickest before the infection took the meningitis the hardest. In most cases the deaths were caused by strokes which were spurred by the meningitis.

Federal Oversight

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Every day bring news about the large fungal meningitis outbreak that has affected residents across the country. This weekend was no exception. According to recent reports from NBC News, the infected count has risen to 197 patients in 13 different states. In addition, for the first time one of those new cases was identified in Illinois. As we have previously noted, the Illinois Department of Pubic Health has already explained that three APAC clinics in Illinois disbursed the spinal steroid injections. Those clinics include the APAC facility in Westchester, APAC in Lincoln Park, and at the Thorek Memorial Hospital. The IDPH explained that those patients affected shoudl already have been contacted and tested to determine if they’ve contracted the meningitis as a result of the injection.

Brain Membrane Infection

Meningitis is a serious brain inflammation and infection that can prove fatal if not properly treated. Most cases of meningitis are linked to pathogens like a virus or bacteria. However, it can also be caused by a fungus. That is what happened in this case, as several batches of a spinal steroid made at one compounding pharmacy were apparently contaminated. Those batches were sent to medical clinics across the country and eventually made their way into the patient bodies. The steroids were finally recalled in September but not before upwards of 13,000 patients received the injections throughout the summer.

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Many local residents should be on the lookout this week for any signs or symptoms of a rare form of fungal meningitis. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that meningitis is an inflammation of certain membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Most cases of meningitis are related to a virus or bacteria. However, in rare cases, a fungus may be the cause of the infection.

All forms of meningitis are serious, requiring quick and, often-prolonged, treatment. Failure to get that treatment may result in serious injury or even death.

The latest scare involves a rash of fungal meningitis in well over a hundred patients across the country. The CDC notes that the cause of the problem has been traced to a pharmaceutical compounding plant in New England. The compounding plant takes medications made elsewhere and converts them to appropriate doses to be given to patients. The finished products are then shipped to clinics across the country.

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Community health officials in nearly two dozens states, including Illinois, are warning local residents of a new outbreak that can be deadly. As discussed recently in a Reuters story, thousands of vials of an epidural painkiller may have been infected with a rare strain of meningitis. Over 100 people have already been infected, eight have died, and thousands more may be at risk.

It goes without saying that all local residents should take this issue seriously to ensure they receive the treatment they need if they are affected by the recalled drug.

The Meningitis Outbreak