Meningitis risk has now spread to 14,000 people after confirmation that New England Compounding drugs are linked to the outbreak. With 14 people already dead and another thousand added to the risk category, the CDC now adds to the concern saying tests might not be effective enough to detect the fungus.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of Thursday, the number of cases of non-contagious fungal meningitis climbed to 170, whereas the death toll is 14. Health officials have linked the meningitis outbreak to steroid injections produced by New England Compounding Center.
Thursday, CDC announced 14,000 people were given the contaminated steroid injections made by New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Dr. J. Todd Webber, in charge of the current meningitis outbreak for the CDC, said that 90 percent of the people at risk were already briefed, however “we aren’t out of the woods yet”.
Dr. Webber told reporters the CDC found two strains of meningitis in patients, Aspergillus and Exserohilum. The problem is that Exserohilum is a strain of meningitis that is basically “new territory” for health experts today, since it has never before been linked to a meningitis outbreak.
The CDC investigation at the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts and several other facilities that received the contaminated injections has found 50 vials with meningitis fungus. On the overall, 76 clinics across 23 states received the contaminated drugs.
Fungal meningitis doesn’t spread like the bacterial kind. Only people that have received the contaminated steroid injection are at risk. Dr. Benjamin Park with the CDC warned that the current meningitis outbreak symptoms could take up to 42 days to appear. He recommended that the 14,000 people at risk be wary of the symptoms “at least several months after injection”.
The CDC has two antifungal medication treatments for people with fungal meningitis, one for each strain identified in tests. Dr. J. Todd Webber warned that “these drugs are very strong and can be very difficult for patient to tolerate over time”.
Meanwhile, FDA regulators are looking forward to have a talk with pharmacists and lawmakers to avoid another tainted drugs outbreak. “We want to sit down with pharmacists and lawmakers and think about a scheme that recognizes that the industry and practice of pharmacy have evolved over time, and put in place a risk-based scheme” said Deborah Autor, deputy commissioner for the FDA.