About 13,000 people may have been exposed to the tainted steroid that has been linked to a growing outbreak of fungal meningitis, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday. The outbreak has killed eight people and sickened 97 others in 23 states, including Florida.
The figure, the first estimate of how many people were injected with any of the 17,676 doses shipped around the country, is based on reports from state health departments and clinics that used the drug, methylprednisolone acetate. It was injected near the spine to ease back and neck pain, a treatment that about 5 million people in the United States undergo every year.
The company that made the drug, the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., has shut down, surrendered its license and recalled all its products, not just the steroid.
The CDC said the company began shipping potentially contaminated lots of the drug on May 21, and that people who had the treatment for back pain — called a lumbar epidural steroid injection — after that date should seek medical attention if they develop symptoms like severe or worsening headache, fever, stiff neck, dizziness, weakness, sensitivity to light or loss of balance.
It is not known if all the vials of medicine in the implicated lots were contaminated with the disease-causing fungus, or if everyone exposed to it will become ill. Curtis Allen, the spokesman for the CDC, predicted that most exposed people would not become sick.