Main threat of fungal meningitis passes, health officials warn victims not yet in the clear

The primary threat posed by contaminated epidural steroid injection that’s been linked to a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis has passed but those who received the drugs are not in the clear just yet.

According to an ABC News report, the 42-day incubation period for fungal meningitis expired on Wednesday this week. It represents a time 42 days after when the last possible person could have received a contaminated methylprednisolone acetate injection from a Massachusetts compounding lab. At least 30 people have died and another 420 have been infected with fungal meningitis after receiving one of these injections.

On Sept. 26, Framingham-based New England Compounding Center issued a recall on three production Lots of that epidural steroid injection drug that was mixed at prepared at its labs. Testing done by the Food and Drug Administration confirmed that as many as 50 sample vials were tainted with a fungus that was likely responsible for infecting recipients with fungal meningitis.

More than 14,000 vials were included in that recall and thousands of people were put at risk of developing the life-threatening infection. Infections were reported at a furious pace in the first several weeks following the recall announcement but the 19 infections confirmed last week have been the latest and officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only expect to confirm a few more new infections in the next week or two.

Still, those affected by the contaminated drugs are not in the clear. New reports indicate that people who were fortunate enough to survive their fungal meningitis infection now face a new threat. An alarming number of fungal meningitis victims who received the contaminated steroid injection have begun developing secondary spinal infections, epidural abscesses and arachnoiditis, each affects different layers of the spine with the latter being more difficult to treat and more painful.

In Michigan, of the more than 110 people who’ve already been diagnosed with fungal meningitis, more than 50 have since been diagnosed with abscesses. Health officials are searching for answers into these new problems as they continue to monitor the previous outbreak. The CDC warned that just because the 42-day window for infections has closed, some victims confirmed in this outbreak did not develop their symptoms of meningitis for 100 days after they received their injection.

More than 70 pain management and health care clinics received contaminated epidural steroid injections from New England Compounding Center, which has since been closed amid state and federal investigations into the lack of safety protocol and unsanitary conditions at the labs which produced the affected steroid vials.

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