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Fungal outbreak keeps spreading

Published: Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 9:04 a.m. CST

LOS ANGELES (MCT) — An outbreak of a rare form of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated pain medication has continued to spread, with seven deaths and 64 patients sickened, according to health reports released Saturday.

The illness has been reported in nine states, with new cases in Minnesota and Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The deaths and illnesses are linked to steroid injections commonly used to alleviate back pain.

The contaminated medication, methylprednisolone acetate, which was produced at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., has been recalled. Health officials have also publicized the names of clinics in 23 states that received the drug in hope of identifying patients.

“All patients who may have received these medications need to be tracked down immediately,” said Dr. Benjamin Park of the CDC in a news release. “It is possible that if patients with infection are identified soon and put on appropriate antifungal therapy, lives may be saved.”

Tennessee has reported the most cases: 29, including three deaths. It is followed by Virginia, where 11 cases and one death were reported. Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio have also reported cases.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious. Symptoms include worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, weakness or numbness and slurred speech.

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