Meningitis Outbreak Toll Now 21 Dead, 271 Sickened: CDC

Fungus found in steroid produced by Massachusetts pharmacy, officials reveal

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Health officials said they expect to see more cases of the rare type of meningitis, which is not contagious, because symptoms can take a month or more to appear.

Infected patients have developed a range of symptoms approximately one to four weeks following their injection. People who have had a steroid injection since July, and have any of the following symptoms, should talk to their doctor as soon as possible: worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, new weakness or numbness in any part of your body or slurred speech, the CDC said.

Infected patients must receive intravenous drugs in a hospital.

Compounding pharmacies like the New England Compounding Center traditionally started out as community-based neighborhood druggists. But over time, the practices of some compounding pharmacies have expanded, sometimes beyond their intended limits, experts explained.

According to the Associated Press, this isn't the first time the New England Compounding Center has encountered problems with contaminated injections. In 2007, the company settled a lawsuit that claimed that an 83-year-old man died in 2004 after contracting fatal bacterial meningitis from a shot produced by the compounding center. The pharmacy reached a settlement with the man's widow before the case went to trial, the AP said.

Compounding pharmacies aren't subject to the same FDA oversight as regular drug manufacturers are, and some members of Congress now say the meningitis outbreak highlights the need for more regulatory control.

The CDC released a list of the approximately 75 health-care facilities that received contaminated product.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about injections for back pain.

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