5 dead from rare meningitis, FDA warns against drug maker


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Submitted: Thu, 10/04/2012 - 7:22pm
Updated: Fri, 10/05/2012 - 11:54am
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — An outbreak of a rare form of meningitis has spread to North Carolina. The fungal meningitis has been linked to contaminated steroid injections given for back pain.

Doctors say all of those infected received a steroid injection that was contaminated with a fungus found in leaf mold.

“There have been cases in North Carolina,” ABC News Chief Health & Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said during an interview with WWAY. “At this point, we don’t know if those people received their vaccinations in Tennessee or whether the product was used by clinics in North Carolina.”

The FDA has identified the maker of the drug as New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. The company has issued a recall for the steroid. The government is warning doctors and hospitals not to use any product from the specialty pharmacy. Investigators also have been looking into the antiseptic and anesthetic used during the injections.

Dr. Besser says this form of meningitis takes some time to manifest in those infected. That’s why he’s telling anyone who may have received the injection to contact their doctor.

“Bacteria grows very quickly. Fungus grows very slowly. It may be a number of weeks before a person who has been exposed develops any symptoms,” Dr. Besser said.

At least 30 people have been infected in five states, including one case in North Carolina. Five have died from the illness.

These numbers can be alarming, but Dr. Besser says the majority of people can rest assured.

“Unless it is injected into you or you have an immune problem, it’s not going to cause you any harm,” he said.

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