Six Months after Discovery, Patients Still Being Infected with Meningitis

Fungal meningitis lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm continue to report on developments in the outbreak of fungal meningitis from the New England Compounding Center that has so far killed nearly 50 people. More than six months after the first outbreaks, reports of infections continue to rise.

According to NBC News, at least two to three people are reporting fungal meningitis infections every week. The infections are caused by steroid injections contaminated with mold from the New England Compounding Center, which closed shortly after the first reports were released.

Fungal meningitis develops after fungus – in this case, mold – spreads from the injection site throughout the bloodstream. This particular outbreak is incredibly dangerous and deadly because those who require steroid injections often already have weakened immune systems. Like any other infection, fungal meningitis is significantly more fatal in those with compromised immune systems, such as the very young and very old, and AIDS or cancer patients.

So far, the outbreak has killed about 50 people and infected more than 700. Several patients have also suffered strokes as a result of the contaminated drugs. Signs and symptoms of fungal meningitis include fever, stiff neck, nausea, sensitivity to light, and altered mental state.

What is so troubling about these most recent outbreaks is that most of the patients previously tested negative for fungal infections, only to be sickened a few months later. Some of the infection patients had MRIs or lumbar punctures in October, when the contamination was first discovered, which showed they were clear of infection.

The CDC released a health alert recently, urging doctors and clinicians to remain on high alert for new infections, especially in Michigan, where more than 250 cases have been reported. Nearly 14,000 people were exposed to the infected steroid, and an estimated 11,000 people in 20 states were actually injected. The steroids are used most often to remedy back and neck pain, although there have been meningitis reports associated with injections into knee, shoulder and ankle joints.

Fortunately, this form of fungal meningitis is not contagious, and many of the most recent patients are reporting lesser illnesses caused by the injections. Some of these patients are suffering from infections at the site of injection, leading to epidural abscesses or arachnoiditis, which is the inflammation of nerves close to the spine. While these infections are serious, they are not as potentially fatal as fungal meningitis. Symptoms of these conditions include neurological problems, numbness, and stinging and burning pain in the legs or lower back. In severe cases, arachnoiditis can lead to paralysis of the lower limbs, so contact a doctor immediately if you have any suspicions.

The FDA and CDC went into the New England Compounding Center to investigate almost immediately after the first reports of meningitis were uncovered. Unfortunately, the agencies discovered that other products were infected with bacteria and fungus, and the CDC has received reports of illnesses in those taking these other products. There have not been any reports of fungal meningitis or spinal infections from these products, however. Most of these patients reported having meningeal inflammation, which is a less severe form of meningitis.

Doctors and experts do not know how long the incubation period for this outbreak is, and are still investigating the Compounding Center to determine what the source of the outbreak was. Untreated infections can spread from the body’s soft tissue to the bone and central nervous system, which leads to life-altering, permanent, or deadly effects.

The drugs to treat fungal meningitis, voriconazole and amphotericin B, have their own severe side effects, ranging from hallucinations to liver damage. Infected patients were initially told they had to be treated with these drugs for three months. Later, treatment periods went up to nine months. Now, doctors are telling patients they will have to take the anti-fungal drugs for at least one year.

Lawsuits are currently being filed by victims of this outbreak, and are expected to mount as more and more patients start to show signs of infection. Meningitis lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently evaluating cases of fungal meningitis caused by steroids from the New England Compounding Center, and offer free legal consultations.