By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The deadly meningitis outbreak is expanding into our area. Health officials say medical facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania have received some of the tainted medication associated with the outbreak.
Investigators say there are now 35 cases of fungal meningitis and at least five deaths related to steroid pain injections.
The medication was sent to about 75 facilities around the country, including our area, and now thousands of patients are being warned they may have been exposed.
People infected with a rare form of fungal meningitis all received injectable steroids, given in an epidural. It’s a widely used treatment for back and neck pain.
The tainted drug that’s been recalled came from a facility in Massachusetts. It was shipped to medical facilities in 23 states including western Pennsylvania, and six in New Jersey. We’ve learned one is Elmer Hospital in Salem County. But at this point we don’t know of any local cases of meningitis from the injections.
“None of us have seen anything like this where a medication injected into the cerebral spinal fluid has caused infections so we’re in new territory here,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an Infectious Disease Expert.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness and fever.
“The symptoms are not as dramatic and they come on more gradually,” said Dr. Schaffner.
Many of the cases happened at a Tennessee hospital. Sue Manor is among hundreds of patients who have been warned they may have been exposed.
“I just thought we should research this. The more I research it the more worried I get,” said Sue.
The recalled medication has been available since July.
The meningitis associated with this outbreak is not contagious and can be treated with intravenous anti-fungal medications.
Health officials are telling doctors to stop using any products that came from the Massachusetts facility.
Contact your doctor if you have any concerns.
For more information on fungal meningitis, visit: www.cdc.gov/meningitis.