Twenty-eight people have now died and 386 have been sickened in the ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections from a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy, federal health officials reported Thursday.
Infections have been reported in 19 states. Virginia initially reported three deaths tied to the outbreak, but reduced it to two deaths on Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The CDC had the following state-by-state breakdown of cases: Florida: 23 cases, including 3 deaths; Georgia, 1 case; Idaho, 1 case; Illinois, 1 case; Indiana: 48 cases, including 3 deaths; Maryland: 22 cases, including 1 death; Michigan: 106 cases, including 7 deaths; Minnesota: 10 cases; New Hampshire: 11 cases; New Jersey: 18 cases; New York: 1 case; North Carolina: 3 cases, including 1 death; Ohio: 15 cases; Pennsylvania: 1 case; Rhode Island: 2 cases; South Carolina: 1 case; Tennessee: 75 cases, including 11 deaths; Texas: 1 case; Virginia: 46 cases, including 2 deaths.
Nine of the 386 cases involve what the CDC calls “peripheral joint infection,” meaning an infection in a knee, hip, shoulder or elbow. These joint infections aren’t considered as dangerous as injections near the spine for back pain that have been linked to the potentially fatal meningitis infections.
Meningitis is inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The steroid injections are used to treat pain in the lower back as well as joints.
Infected patients have developed a range of symptoms approximately one to four weeks following their injection. People who have had a steroid injection since July, and have any of the following symptoms, should talk to their doctor as soon as possible: worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, new weakness or numbness in any part of your body or slurred speech, the CDC said.
The CDC and state health departments estimate that roughly 14,000 patients may have gotten steroid injections from the specialty pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center, based in Framingham, Mass. All of the fungal meningitis patients identified so far were thought to be injected with methylprednisolone acetate from the Massachusetts pharmacy, according to the CDC.