1. A total 11 people have died and 119 individuals have developed fungal meningitis, an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The cause is believed to be contaminated vials of a common steroid medication called Methylprednisolone Acetate, which is commonly injected to people who are experiencing back, knee or shoulder pain.
2. The contaminated medication vials were manufactured by New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Massachusetts. As many as 13,000 people are believed to have received medication manufactured and recalled by this company. A total of 17,700 contaminated vials were sent to 23 states. The names of the clinical facilities that received contaminated vials can be found at the CDC.
3. The highest incidence of cases have been reported (in order) in Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio.
4. Meningitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Fungal meningitis is uncommon in totally healthy individuals.
5. Symptoms may include fever, severe headache, chills, neck stiffness, increased sensitivity to light or photophobia and general malaise. In the worst possible scenario, it can cause an overwhelming generalized infection of the body which instead causes septic shock and death.
6. In some cases of fungal meningitis, the affected individual can suffer a stroke, which could cause permanent neurologic damage.
7. The symptoms usually begin 1 to 4 weeks after the exposure to the contaminated Methylprednisolone Acetate injection.
8. This form of meningitis, as opposed to viral and bacterial, is not contagious.
9. Fungal meningitis is treated with anti-fungal medications.
10. If you have recently received a steroid injection, my recommendation is that you contact the physician who administered it. If you have any of the symptoms described above, please seek medical attention immediately.
Dr. Juan Rivera is a board certified Internist and Cardiologist. He is the Director of Cardiovascular Prevention at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, FL and National Medical Correspondent for Telemundo Network” You can reach Dr. Rivera on Twitter at @drjuanjr.