Thursday, October 25, 2012

323 Infected in Meningitis Outbreak as Experts Study Fungal Culprit

In a growing fungal meningitis outbreak, 323 Americans have been infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Yesterday, the agency had reported 317 cases of fungal meningitis, including 24 deaths, in patients who received contaminated epidural steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center, mostly for back pain.

The CDC also notes five peripheral joint infections from patients who received injections in joints such as the knee, hip, shoulder or elbow, for a total of 328 cases tied to the outbreak (up from 317 yesterday).

Meningitis-linked firm skirted reprimand in '04 Inside the family firm linked to meningitis outbreakBlack fungus specks in vials among complaints at New England Compounding Center

The Food and Drug Administration confirmed the same fungus found in at least 40 people sickened with fungal meningitis was also discovered in more than 50 unopened vials from one of the recalled lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate injections from the New England Compounding Center. About 97 percent of the 14,000 patients who received injections from the implicated lots of steroids have been contacted for follow-up, according to the CDC.

A preliminary investigation of the NECC's Framingham, Mass., facility found dirty floor mats, a leaky boiler and black fungus specks in steroid vials, among complaints. State officials also said their investigation found drugs were sent out before test results on their sterility could be returned. They also said the company operated as a drug manufacturer by producing drugs for broader use, rather than filling specific prescriptions like its license allowed. The state has moved to revoke the company's license given its investigation.

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