The outbreak of meningitis that continues more than four weeks after the first case of the fungal infection was reported has been joined by infections in joints such as knees and elbows, also caused by tainted injectable drugs from the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center, NECC.
Seven people who received joint injections of a contaminated medication in Michigan and New Hampshire have developed fungal infections in the joint(s) that received the injections. At this time, no deaths have resulted from the joint infections.
Today’s Meningitis Outbreak Statistics
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a total of 354 fungal infections have been reported as of 2 p.m. today. Of the 354 total infections, 347 of them are meningitis and 7 are peripheral joint infections.
There are now 19 states where the procedures were performed that have resulted in the fungal infections. Outpatient health facilities in a total of 23 states were known to have received shipments of the recalled steroid medication.
To date, 25 people have died as a result of fungal meningitis.
Doctors Unsure How Best to Proceed
Dr. Robert Latham, chief of medicine at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, explained to The Wall Street Journal that physicians are still unsure as to what are the best initial treatments or if/when to change treatments through the course of the illness. Other doctors have reported that they can’t be certain the antifungal treatments are successful, or even what symptoms are indicative of sickness.
Long-term effects of fungal meningitis, including stroke-like symptoms, loss of bladder control and pain in the upper back and legs have been noted in some of those who were diagnosed early in the outbreak.
Careful recording and reporting of data associated with the non-contagious fungal infection may well lead to better informed decisions down the road.
Recommendations for Those at Risk of Infection
The CDC continues with its recommendations to those people who have the potential for having received a potentially contaminated injection either into the spine or a joint to be watchful for symptoms of infection. At this time, the greatest likelihood for developing a fungal infection appears to be within six weeks of having received a tainted injection, but public health officials are not ruling out shorter or longer incubation periods.
Although most of the people who may have been exposed to contaminated spinal injections have been contacted by the medical professional who performed the procedure, you can check the CDC’s list of facilities known to have received the recalled steroid lots of medication to learn if you had a spinal injection at one of the facilities.
Symptoms of fungal meningitis are much more subtle than that of bacterial or viral meningitis. Some people have reported just a slight worsening of their back pain or a mild headache. Other symptoms may include a stiffening of the neck, sensitivity to light, fever, or sores at the injection site.
Symptoms of the fungal joint infection include pain, redness and/or swelling of the joint or injection site.
If you notice the development of these symptoms, contact your health care provider at once.