In the wake of a recent multi-state meningitis outbreak that has left five people dead and another 35 hospitalized, regulatory officials are concerned that the fungal infection could continue to spread at an alarming rate. Collaborative efforts by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have witnessed the initiation of an intensive investigation. According to authorities, the steroid medication linked the current outbreak may have been administered to patients in approximately 23 states nationwide. Therefore, more cases are expected to be revealed in the coming days.
Concern regarding the current outbreak began on September 21, 2012, when the CDC was notified by the Tennessee Department of Health of a patient with the onset of meningitis. According to the report, the onset of meningitis came approximately 19 days after the patients had received an epidural steroid injection at a Tennessee ambulatory surgery center (ASC). Initial tests of the patient’s blood were negative. However, subsequent testing revealed that Aspergillus fumigatus was isolated from the cerebral spinal fluid by fungal culture.
On September 28, investigators identified another case outside of Tennessee, possibly indicating contamination of a widely distributed medication. As of October 4, a total of 35 cases in the following states, five of which have resulted in fatal circumstances, have been identified with a clinical picture consistent with fungal infection:
- Florida (2 cases)
- Indiana (1 case)
- Tennessee (25 cases, including 3 deaths)
- Maryland (2 cases,including 1 death)
- North Carolina (1 case)
- Virginia (4 cases, including 1 death)
While the investigation is currently ongoing, Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, acknowledged that Tennessee state health officials “know there were over 700 patients in tennessee who were exposed” to the steroid injection.
The product in question is a preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (80mg/ml), an injectable steroid produced and distributed by New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts. CDC’s interim data show that all infected patients received injection with this product, the majority of which were looking to treat back pain. As of Oct 3, 2012, NECC has voluntarily shut down. Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo, Massachusetts public health director of safety, has subsequently “encouraged all health facilities to immediately cease use of any product produced by NECC.”
According to representatives from the Massachusetts Health Department, approximately 17,676 vials of medication in each of the three lots under investigation. They were sent out July through September and have a shelf life of 180 days.
The CDC was alerted to the fungal contaminant upon an investigation of the sealed vials at the companies’ facility. Due to the fairly long incubation period of this fungus, patients who received the injections are at risk of developing fungal meningitis for at least a month after their last exposure. “Over the next few weeks, we are going to see a progressive accumulation of cases,” Schaffner said.
The CDC has yet to determine the rate of infection among those that have been exposed to the steroid injection. “At the moment, fortunately, the attack rate looks pretty low – less than 1 percent — but we are still in the early days of defining this thing,” Schaffner said.
Of significant concern, however, are an additional 75 facilities that may have received the steroid injection in 23 other states. Those states include: California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and West Virginia.
Do I Have a Meningitis Lawsuit?
The trial lawyers at The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP have decades of experience navigating through complex legislative and regulatory issues and litigating high stakes cases all over the nation. Our law firm focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in meningitis lawsuits. We are currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with meningitis after receiving a steroid injection, you may be entitled to financial compensation. For a free case review, please click the link below or call toll free 24 hrs/day 1-(949) 557-5800.