The CDC lab has identified Exserohilum (pictured above) as the primary fungus responsible for the current meningitis outbreak. Photo courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library.
1. What’s going on?
- As of November 19, 478 cases, including 34 deaths, of fungal meningitis have been reported in 19 states (see case count map). Twelve cases of joint infections have also been reported.
- The meningitis and infections have been linked to three lots (i.e. batches) of an injectable steroid medication produced by New England Compounding Company (NECC) (see health care facilities map).
- The implicated lots of medication have been recalled; however, approx. 14,000 people may have been exposed to the contaminated injectable steroid medication.
- The medication in question differs from the epidural given to pregnant women during childbirth.
- For more information, visit CDC’s Current Situation webpage.
2. What’s fungal meningits?
- Meningitis is the swelling of the protective membranes (called meninges) covering the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by a bacteria, virus, or, in this case, a fungus.
- Fungal meningitis is rare and usually caused by the spread of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord.
- The fungal meningitis associated with this outbreak is not contagious.
- In addition to typical meningitis symptoms – headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck – people with fungal meningitis may also experience confusion, dizziness, and discomfort from bright lights. Symptoms often appear gradually over several weeks and can be mild at first.
3. What’s CDC doing to control the outbreak?
- As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate the meningitis outbreak response efforts with federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial public health partners. Since early October, more than 250 experts have worked in the EOC in support of the response.
CDC continues to work with states and the Food and Drug Administration to determine if there may be other fungal infections caused by exposure to NECC products beyond the three lots of injectable steroid medication.
- The CDC lab continues to test samples from potentially affected patients and has confirmed Exserohilum as the primary fungus in this outbreak.
- CDC continues to provide guidance to clinicians and answers to frequently asked questions for patients and the public.
Dr. Benjamin Park (above), EOC surveillance team lead, updates the incident manager and colleagues on CDC activities in response to the meningitis outbreak.
4. Where can I go for even more info?
- Visit CDC’s Multistate Meningitis Outbreak webpage, which is regularly updated as new information becomes available
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