Meningitis Outbreak Grows, Maryland One of Affected States

  The recent outbreak of fungal meningitis continued to grow this week with the deaths of at least four more individuals.  To date, the outbreak, linked to contaminated steroid shots received by the individual patients, has killed 12 people nationwide (Maryland, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia). Tennessee has been the hardest state hit with at least six reported deaths.  To date, there is one confirmed death in the state of Maryland and at least 8 confirmed cases of the development of the infection.  Meningitis is best described as an infection of the various membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.  It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or other micro-organisms such as fungi.  Meningitis is obviously life threatening  due to the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord.  Common reported symptoms include nausea, neck stiffness, fever, confusion, vomiting, an inability to tolerate light and headache.  It is important to note that fungal meningitis, unlike bacterial or viral meningitis, is not contagious.  A lumbar puncture is the test of choice to confirm or rule out meningitis.  A lumbar puncture involves the insertion of a needle into the spinal canal to extract a sample of cerebro-spinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.  The fluid is then examined in a laboratory to see whether antibiotics are warranted. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services that is charged with disease prevention and control in the United States, has been tasked with investigating this outbreak.  According to the CDC, as many as 13,000 people received contaminated steroid injections designed to relieve back pain and other ailments.  On September 25th, three lots of the steroid manufactured and produced by a Massachusetts company were recalled due to the discovery of the contamination.  The potentially contaminated steroid vials were shipped to 76 health care facilities in 23 states according to the CDC.  Unfortunately, because the incubation period for the disease is up to a month, many individuals who received these injections may need to wait to see if they develop meningitis-like symptoms.

Not surprisingly, this outbreak has triggered renewed calls from health officials and the general public for more stringent regulations of pharmaceutical manufacturers and/or pharmacy compounders -- entities that take drug ingredients and package them into medications and dosages for health care facilities.  Currently, the United States federal Food and Drug Administration regulates only the drug ingredients themselves but not the actions of the compounders.  These entities, rather, are subjected only to largely ill defined measures of state oversight, and therefore, the potential for something catastrophic such as this most recent outbreak exists.

At STSW, our lawyers routinely handle wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases arising out of medical and/or pharmaceutical negligence in the Maryland (Baltimore and surrounding areas) and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas.  If you or a loved one has been affected by a contaminated steroid injection or even suspect that you may have been, call our legal team for a free consultation at 410-385-2225 or visit our website to set up your free consultation.