At least five people are dead and 35 sickened with fungal meningitis that has been linked to steroid shots for back pain.
U.S. health officials ramped up warnings Thursday about a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy linked to the widening outbreak of a rare kind of meningitis, urging doctors and hospitals not to use any products from the company.
Investigators this week found contamination in a sealed vial of the steroid at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., according to Food and Drug Administration officials.
Tests are under way to determine if it is the same fungus blamed in the outbreak that has sickened people in six states, including Florida. The Florida Department of Health is currently investigating two confirmed cases in Marion County, an 87-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman.
"Our Department has asked the facilities to contact all patients who may have been treated with the implicated product to identify patients with neurologic illness in need of testing and treatment," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. "Rest assured that this outbreak is not contagious and we will continue our work with all stakeholders to ensure that Florida's residents and visitors are safe."
The type of fungal meningitis involved is not contagious like the more common forms. It is caused by a fungus often found in leaf mold. Health officials suspect it may have been in the steroid.
Investigators said they are still trying to confirm the source of the infection, but the one common theme in all the illnesses is that each patient got the steroid medication.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include severe and worsening headache, nausea, dizziness and fever. Some of the patients also experienced slurred speech, and difficulty walking and urinating, Tennessee health officials said.
The time from infection to onset of symptoms is estimated at anywhere from a few days to a month, so some people may not have fallen ill yet, health officials said.
Centers for Disease Control