Photo: ML Cohen (Flickr)
An outbreak of a rare type of fungal meningitis has spread to Indiana, and the number of people affected is rising.
The State Health Department is confirming there are at least three Indiana cases of fungal meningitis as of Friday afternoon. The OSMC Surgery Center in Elkhart says it has two of those cases.
The center says patients came down with the ailment from a spinal steroid injection. There is no word yet on the origin of the third case.
Thirty people have become sick in six states, and five have died so far in the outbreak that is linked to a spinal steroid injection that some use to control back pain. The steroid was sent to clinics by a specialty pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, which has been closed during the investigation into the outbreak.
Pam Pontones, Indiana‘s state epidemiologist, says one person in the state has been infected with aspergillus meningitis, and says at least six clinics received the steroid compound that was tainted. Those clinics have been notified by the Centers For Disease Control and were told by the CDC to notify anyone who may have received the injections since July 1. The compound was officially recalled September 26.
“What we have done is to follow up with the six locations in Indiana that we know have received this product, but there may be potentially others who have received this product, so we are treating this as a statewide event,” Pontones says.
Unlike bacterial and viral meningitis, this type of fungal meningitis cannot be spread from person-to-person.
Pontones says if you received one of the steroid injections for back pain and you are concerned, you should call your doctor to arrange a checkup. She says the symptoms are similar to other types of meningitis – fever, stiff neck, headache and sensitivity to light.
Dr. Tom Slama with St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis says this type of meningitis can be treated.
“Treatment is with anti-fungal agents of which there are three or four which work but they are difficult to give, toxic and poorly tolerated,” he says.