Variety in Fungal Meningitis Symptoms Poses Problems For Doctors

In the wake of a recent fungal meningitis outbreak, concern is growing over the reactions people are experiencing following the injection of New England Compounding Center’s Methylprednisolone Acetate. Subsequently, those exposed to the contaminated epidural steroid injections are not exhibiting symptoms that are typically synonymous with a fungal meningitis diagnosis. Patients have reportedly experienced strokes and other reactions that are usually not linked to the development of meningitis. As a result, healthcare professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to diagnose those that have been affected by the recent outbreak.

Meningitis is characterized by the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, otherwise known as the meninges. The subsequent inflammation is typically caused by a bacterial or viral infection , but meningitis may also be the result of a fungal infection. A standard meningitis infection can usually be treated with antibiotics.

However, fungal meningitis occurs when the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus. In the case of the recent meningitis outbreak, particles of fungus were found in vials of NECC’s injectable steroids. Fungal meningitis can develop after a fungus spreads through the bloodstream from somewhere else in the body, as a result of the fungus being introduced directly into the central nervous system, or by direct extension from an infected body site next to the central nervous system. The treatment of fungal meningitis requires anti-fungal drugs and an unspecified length of treatment.

A typical meningitis diagnoses includes a rapid onset of symptoms; including fever, headache, stiff neck and loss of consciousness. However, William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, acknowledged that this outbreak has seen some patients experience headache without fever, and “for the most part symptoms occur in a more gradual fashion.”

According to Schaffner, the fungal meningitis linked to the NECC outbreak is invading blood vessels and causing strokes in some patients. What is more concerning, however, are patients being admitted to the hospital for stroke when they are in fact suffering from fungal meningitis. Stroke victims are not typically tested for meningitis upon entering the emergency room, therefore their diagnoses may be incorrect.

Of particular concern to the healthcare community, however, is the inability or difficulty in which those who have been infected with fungal meningitis are identified. “Nobody is totally sure what these patients look like,” said Trish Perl, senior hospital epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore, who is advising doctors about patients who might have the disease.

Due to the variety of symptoms that have been seen in those with fungal meningitis, federal health officials have urged doctors to set a low bar in deciding whether to test patients who received a steroid injection in their backs. The test requires a spinal tap, which involves a needle inserted in the spinal column to collect spinal fluid.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 13,000 people in 23 states have been exposed to the potentially contaminated steroid injections distributed by NECC. Federal regulators are urging anyone who has received an epidural steroid injection since May 21 to contact a doctor as soon as possible. Signs and symptoms that may be exhibited include: headache, fever, sensitivity to light, slurred speech or numbness.

Furthermore, fungal meningitis has a long incubation period which may force the infection to lay dormant for as long as 42 days. As a result, regulatory officials predict the number of victims to grow significantly within the next few weeks. If you have become ill after receiving an epidural steroid injection fron NECC, you may be entitled to compensation by filing a fungal meningitis lawsuit.

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 an epidural 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.