The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working to track down persons who may have been injected with a steroid for lower back pain that is the likely cause of a fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed several people nationwide. Officials say that 35 people have been diagnosed with the illness and 5 have already died from it. Meningitis causes inflammation of the spinal cord and is usually caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus.
The drug, methylprednisone, is used mostly in older patients to manage the treatment of back pain. Its manufacturer, New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, has voluntarily agreed to stop distributing all of its products and the FDA urges all healthcare facilities to cease using their products.
Though measures have been taken to stop the use of the steroid, officials predict there will be more reported cases because of the life cycle of the disease. “Infected patients have presented approximately one to four weeks following their injection with a variety of symptoms including fever, new or worsening headache, nausea and our new symptoms consistent with a stroke,” said Dr. Benjamin Park of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Some of these patients symptoms were very mild in nature. Cerebrospinal fluid obtained from these patients has shown findings consistent with meningitis. It is important to note that this type of meningitis is not transmissible from person-to-person.”