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Meningitis Outbreak: Death Toll Climbs To 30 As House Subcommittee Calls Hearing

November 6, 2012

Meningitis Outbreak: Death Toll Climbs To 30 As House Subcommittee Calls Hearing

Despite the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s best efforts, which have included issuing product recalls to two pharmaceutical companies and even a raid on one of those facilities, the reported cases of fungal meningitis in 19 states are continuing to pile on. The outbreak has previously been linked to contaminated steroid injections (methylprednisolone acetate) that were produced and distributed by the New England Compounding Center to approximately 75 clinics in those affected states. While the FDA has issued a full recall of those injections, as well as any other products from the NECC and the similar company Ameridose, there have been frightening new developments reported in Tennessee and Michigan.

People who have previously been treated for fungal meningitis associated with these injections have now been complaining of additional health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that patients have been experiencing epidural abscesses (infections of the spine’s epidural layer) and a disease known as arachnoiditis, which is a compression of the spine’s nerve roots, according to The Daily News Journal. While the CDC has reported that no immediate statistical information is available for Tennessee, 51 of the 119 patients infected in Michigan experienced epidural abscesses. Both states are expected to report the bulk of any post-treatment illnesses or complications, as they account for approximately half of the 419 fungal meningitis cases that have been reported nationwide.

To date, the FDA has documented 409 cases of fungal meningitis and 10 cases of joint infections in Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, Idaho, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio. Over the weekend, at least 15 more cases were reported while the death toll rose to 30 people. The House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation will hold a hearing on Nov. 14, at which FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg will testify.

The CDC reports that the longest duration of fungal meningitis so far is 42 days, while the NECC recall began 39 days ago. The CDC has also made available a detailed map that indicates how many cases of fungal meningitis have been reported in each state, in addition toproviding a full list of every clinic that received the tainted steroid injections.

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