Fungal meningitis death toll reaches 24 in the U.S.
25th October 2012
An outbreak of fungal meningitis has erupted in the U.S. and has already claimed 24 lives according to a statement released on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The latest death occurred in the state of Indiana after the victim had received a contaminated steroid injection to treat their back pain. The CDC said it had confirmed cases of fungal infection in 317 people, and meningitis in 54. This total of 317 is mainly comprised of patients who received methylprednisolone acetate steroid injections for their back pain, but five of the cases stem from peripheral joint infections from people who received injections in other areas such as the elbow, hip, knee and shoulder. So far, there have been no fatalities connected to peripheral joint infections. All but two of the meningitis cases were the result of Exserohilum rostratum- a dematiaceous fungus that has been recognised as a human pathogen, with the most common infections being sinusitis and skin infections, keratitis (eye inflammation), subcutaneous phaeohyphomycosis, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), and osteomyelitis (bone infection). The Exserohilum fungus has been discovered within unopened vials of steroids from New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., and the pharmacy has subsequently been shut down and had its license permanently revoked.  Health officials also say that they found dirty conditions at the premises; dirty floor mats, a leaky boiler and black fungus specs in steroid vials were just a few of the discoveries. In the other two cases of meningitis, one patient was stricken with a fungus known as Aspergillus fumigatus, and the second to Cladosporium. Both fungi had never previously been established as having a direct link to meningitis. Fungal meningitis may not be familiar with many people as it is a rare condition. It usually occurs after a fungus travels through blood to the spinal cord. Anyone can develop the disease but those with weak immune systems are more susceptible. Symptoms include fever, stiff neck, headache, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and even stroke or death. Fortunately, the condition is not contagious. Several types of fungus can cause fungal meningitis but one of the main types if Candida albicans – a yeast-like fungus that is responsible for thrush and usually treated with Canesten Oral and Cream Duo. The Food and Drug Administration has now requested that health care providers contact all patients who could have received any products from the New England Compounding Center. Since May 21, almost 1,300 sites in the U.S. have purchased products from the facility. There is some positive news though in the form of the CDC’s latest guidance. They say that the greatest risk for developing fungal meningitis is in the first 42 days (six weeks) after injection. After this time frame, doctors and patients still need to be vigilant but can worry a little less than previously. All fungal infections need to be treated as soon possible, before they get out of hand and develop into something a lot more serious. Fortunately, Medical Specialists Pharmacy has numerous products for fungal infections such as: Daktarin 2% cream (for athlete’s foot), Curanail 5% nail lacquer (for nail infections), Diflucan (for thrush) and the previously mentioned Canesten Oral and Cream Duo (also for thrush). We are constantly adding products to our massive range of prescription medications and chemist shop items, so make sure to regularly check the Medical Specialists website for the latest products and exciting offers.