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4 Things You Should Know About the Current U.S. Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

Categories: Emergency Preparedness & Response, U.S. Disease Outbreaks

 

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 has been working around-the-clock with state health departments to contact the approx. 14,000 people who may have been exposed to the contaminated injectable steroid medication.

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.

 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?

Subscribe HERE to the CDC Works for You 24/7 blog RSS feed to stay updated on CDC’s around-the-clock work to save lives and protect people like you from health threats.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. October 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm ET  -   diana horton

    i am one of the many thousands told by the health dept that i may have been infected . i am very afraid
    and stressed out over all this. i will be going to the e.r. as soon as i take my shower and get dressed. to say i am afraid to go there and find out. i have had a sore neck for about a week now, and i went to see my dr’s
    office and was told i was in the range that i would most likely be o.k. i ask if any one from my clinic was sick and was told that no one was. i go home and was on the web looking at the news paper and there was a person sick from my clinic, two days later another one. it also said that my clinic when called would not say anything and hung up. they would not even give a name of who they were speaking to. i mean, whats up with that. i know the cdc is doing all they can and it sounds like they have one heck of a job to do. i must say that is the only thing i feel safe about. it just scares me because i had three injectiions in three different facets on aug 23 12 i hope everything goes o.k. thanks cdc for keeping us up to date..

    Link to this comment

  2. October 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm ET  -   Joanne DeHerrera

    Hello, I looked at your website, and my city is on that site for Healthcare Facilities. I read ,’May 21st’, so my question is; could someone who had the shot in January in one of those facilities perhaps have it? Also, do doctor’s offices in small towns get the injections from such clinics? I know this is serious, so could whoever is running the CD_eHealth on twitter, pay more attention to the tweets with questions about this? Thank you!

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  3. October 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm ET  -   MAE

    I received billateral occipital nerve blocks (injections) as well as injections bilateral shoulder. The facility i use is on the list of facilities that received recalled products from NECC. I am awarebthatnrheynuse a different type of steroid(kenalog). But lidocaine is mixed with the injections. I’m not sure if anything else is in the mix. Are the facilities required to call patients who might have been given a recalled product but that has not been currently linked to any illnesses. My last shots wee June 6 2012.

    Link to this comment

    • October 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm ET  -   Admin

      Thanks for your comment. CDC doesn’t have firm evidence that fungal infections have been caused by exposure to other NECC products beyond the three lots of contaminated injectable steroid medication (methylprednisolone acetate). Out of an abundance of caution, FDA has asked doctors to contact patients who received an NECC injectable product after May 21, 2012. If you have taken or used any medication from NECC and feel sick, please seek medical attention. If you have additional questions about the safety of medication you received, contact FDA at 1-800-332-1088.

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  4. October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am ET  -   amber dugan

    i havent been contacted, my epidural was done on august 8th….however, my phone number has since changed. i live in ohio. am i at risk? i have no symptoms, so what can i do now?

    Link to this comment

    • October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am ET  -   Blog Admin

      Thanks for reaching out. If you have reason to believe you’re at risk for meningitis or infection, contact your healthcare provider’s office and ask if the injection he/she used came from one of the three contaminated batches of medication produced by New England Compounding Company. For further information, check out CDC’s frequently asked questions for patients and the public: http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/patients/faq-meningitis-outbreak-patients.html .

      Link to this comment

  5. October 28, 2012 at 11:55 am ET  -   clarissa schulz

    I had my injection Spet. 26th and was informed I could be at risk. Waiting is agony. Just curious, if the FDA could see fungus in the vials with the naked eye, shouldn’t the clinics using the steroids have been able to see this also? Has anyone checked or did the clinics destroy the remaining vials after notified? Just trying to work through in my mind how all of this could have happened.

    Link to this comment

  6. November 7, 2012 at 11:30 am ET  -   mary

    I received the injections of tainted steroid and have had symptoms. Had a lumbar puncture done and am awaiting the results. My question is, where can we submit these medical bills for reimbursement from the now defunct company that has caused all of this? Where do you get information of starting a class action law suit against them? I appreciate all the state health departments and CDC are doing in helping innocent people deal with this tragedy. I pray for all of the families who have lost a loved one and for all who remain ill due to this infection. I look forward to your reply. Thank you!

    Link to this comment

  7. November 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm ET  -   Fu Li

    You guys make me proud to be an American. I pay my respects to all the hard working men and woman working to keep us safe. Thank you so much for your work. It does save lives and protect people. Don’t ever think that you work goes unnoticed because I tell all my friends about the great work you guys do for us. As a storm spotter I see how devesated communties can be by a diasese or natural disaster. So I think of you guys at my highest respect. Fu Li

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  8. November 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm ET  -   Stacey

    I received my shots on october 5th and october 19th. I would have postponed my shots but was told by my Dr that he didn’t use that pharmaceutical company only to find out later that yes they do. Am I out of the time frame to be worried? How do I know for sure that all the tainted medicine was recalled ? What is the cut off date to be worried?

    Link to this comment

    • November 15, 2012 at 9:24 am ET  -   Blog Admin

      We understand that this is a very difficult and worrisome situation. Please review this webpage (http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-facilities-map.html) to see whether the facility that administered your injection received contaminated steroids. If so, please contact your physician to discuss your potential treatment options, especially if you are having symptoms of meningitis (http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/patients/faq-meningitis-outbreak-patients.html#symptoms).

      In this outbreak, symptoms typically have appeared 1 to 4 weeks following injection, but it’s important to know that longer and shorter periods of time between injection and onset of symptoms have been reported. Although it sounds like you are continuing to feel well, you should closely watch for symptoms for several months after the injection and see a doctor if you have any of the symptoms, even if they have been previously evaluated.

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