On October 7, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) updated the information regarding the recent fungal meningitis outbreak in the United States. The CDC update stated: CDC is coordinating a multistate investigation of meningitis among patients who received epidural steroid injections (medication injected into the spine). Several of these patients have had strokes related to the meningitis. In several patients, the meningitis was found to be caused by a fungus that is common in the environment but rarely causes meningitis. This form of meningitis is not contagious. The source of the fungus has not yet been identified, and the cause of infections in the other patients is still being assessed.
As of October 7, 2012, the CDC reported that there have been 91 cases of fungal meningitis in the United States in 9 states with 7 confirmed deaths linked to epidural steroid injections. Those states are Florida (4 cases), Indiana (8 cases), Maryland (3 cases, including 1 death), Michigan (20 cases, including 2 deaths), Minnesota (3 cases), North Carolina (2 cases), Ohio (1 case), Tennessee (32 cases, including 3 deaths), and Virginia (18 cases, including 1 death). Source
In addressing the source of the fungal meningitis outbreak, the CDC cautiously stated: [The] CDC is investigating medications and products that are associated with this outbreak of meningitis. At this point, there is not enough evidence to determine the original source of the outbreak, however there is a link to an injectable steroid medication. The lots of medication that were given to patients have been recalled by the manufacturer … Epidural injections are generally very safe procedures, and complications are rare. Fungal meningitis is an extremely rare cause of meningitis overall, including after epidural injections. The type of epidural medication given to patients affected by this outbreak is not the same type of medication as that given to women during childbirth.
The CDC also provided some background information regarding meningitis: Meningitis refers to inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection frequently with a bacteria or virus, but meningitis can also be caused by less common pathogens such as fungi. The severity of illness and the treatment for meningitis differ depending on the cause. Thus, it is important to know the specific cause of meningitis. Fungal meningitis occurs when the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus. 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.
If you or a loved one became infected with fungal meningitis after receiving an epidural steroid injection since May 12, 2012, you should immediately discuss your situation with a local medical malpractice attorney who may be able to investigate your possible claim for you and represent you in the matter, if appropriate.
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