New fungal meningitis case reported in Florida; 19 people now sickened by tainted drug

TALLAHASSEE — State health officials Tuesday confirmed a new case of fungal meningitis associated with contaminated steroid injections for back pain, bringing Florida's total case count to 19, including three deaths. None of the cases has occurred in the Tampa Bay area.

The latest patient, a 66-year-old woman, received the tainted vial of methylprednisolone acetate six weeks ago at the Florida Pain Clinic in Marion County. Six facilities in the state, including three in Marion County, unknowingly injected more than 1,000 people with the contaminated medication from New England Compounding Center.

Nationwide, the number of cases of fungal meningitis related to contaminated steroid injections is 297 with 23 deaths across 16 states. The disease is not contagious.

Meanwhile, federal regulators have broadened their warning to health-care providers about all injectible drugs made by the New England Compounding Center because of new cases of infections linked to two other products. One is steroid triamcinolone acetonide, which is different from the steroid implicated in the existing meningitis cases. A patient who may now have meningitis received the medication through a spinal injection, the FDA said.

The other case involves a medication that is injected into the coronary arteries to temporarily paralyze the heart during open-heart surgery. One patient who received the product, called cardioplegic solution, subsequently developed a fungal infection, the agency said.

Florida officials have already asked 260 facilities in the state that received any medication from the Massachusetts company to follow up with patients and be on the lookout for meningitis symptoms. State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong on Tuesday said he did not know which of the 260 facilities, which include a number of area hospitals, had the two medications possibly tied to new cases.

Armstrong emphasized the state had already asked all those facilities to follow up with patients.

The average age of people infected by the contaminated back steroids in Florida is 60, and the average incubation period is 22 days.

New fungal meningitis case reported in Florida; 19 people now sickened by tainted drug 10/23/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 2:51pm]

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