Meningitis Outbreak Toll Rising

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned in a press conference last week that the toll from the meningitis outbreak is rising. Thirty-five people in six states have become sick with a rare form of meningitis, and five have died as a result. The CDC expects more cases to appear, as well, so this outbreak is far from over. There is an ongoing investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but officials suspect that the cause of the outbreak is a defective medical product ]- a preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate – a steroid used to treat back pain.

The suspected bad batches were manufactured by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Investigators examined an unopened vial of the steroid at the plant and found “foreign matter”, which turned out to be a type of fungus. The exact fungus species is still being determined. However, all 35 people sickened with this rare meningitis strain were given epidural steroid injections. As the fungus type remains unknown, the incubation period for the fungal infection is also yet unknown, which is why officials believe there may be more cases even though the suspected steroids are no longer used. So far, symptoms appear between one and four weeks after injection with the infected steroid, and the severity of symptoms has varied between patients. Symptoms include: headache, nausea, dizziness, fevers, and also possibly slurred speech, unsteady gait, urinary retention, weakness, and sensory deprivation. Doctors and officials emphasize that this type of meningitis is not contagious like other forms of meningitis caused by bacterial or viral infections.

The outbreak was discovered with a case in Tennessee on September 21, the state hit hardest by the outbreak. A week later, a case appeared outside Tennessee, indicating wider contamination and possibly a bigger outbreak of the disease. Benjamin Park, MD, of the CDC’s mycotic diseases division, said bad batches of the steroid were sent to 23 states, including Georgia. In response, on Friday Georgia health officials told reporters (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/georgia-health-officials-warn-of-potential-meningi/nSWGX/) that state workers were contacting potentially infected patients. Fortunately, so far there have been no cases of this meningitis reported in Georgia. Regardless, Dr. Patrick O’Neal, head of the state division of health protection, said, “We’re asking clinicians … to be extra vigilant.” In particular, vigilance is needed in the Macon area, where the Forsyth Street Ambulatory Surgery Center received some potentially contaminated shipments of this steroid, the only known shipment of this product to Georgia. Nevertheless, the health department has alerted 32,000 doctors and physician assistants across the state about this outbreak. Georgia health officials are also working with the CDC in their outbreak investigation.

Atlanta Product Liability Lawyer

If someone you love has been affected by a defective product, the Georgia products liability and defective product attorneys at Sammons & Carpenter can help you figure out whether you have a case and what legal options you may have. Please call us at 404-814-8948, or fill out our confidential online case evaluation form for a free consultation.

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