A Nashville, Tenn., hospital is serving as the makeshift epicenter of the deadly nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to a contaminated steroid injection.
According to a Reuters report, St. Thomas Hospital just outside Nashville has served 15 percent of the more than 200 people who’ve been infected with fungal meningitis after they received a dose of a contaminated Methylprednisolone Acetate injection. This epidural steroid injection is commonly prescribed in the treatment of back pain and inflammation.
Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed 205 cases of fungal meningitis associated with the outbreak. There have been 15 deaths reported in six states which received the contaminated vials of the Methylprednisolone Acetate drug from New England Compounding Center.
The most affected state in this outbreak has been Tennessee. The Nashville hospital most known for its cardiac care has treated 33 of the 53 cases of fungal meningitis in the state and it’s where doctors first started to realize that something was amiss with the Methylprednisolone Acetate vials.
As many as 13,000 people could be at risk of developing fungal meningitis. NECC sent at least that many vials of the Methylprednisolone Acetate drug combination to more than 70 pain management and health care centers in at least 23 states. Fungal meningitis infections have been reported in 14 of the states. The number of victims in this outbreak is expected to rise in coming weeks because it takes time to confirm the illness and it could take up to a month for symptoms of fungal meningitis to develop.
According to the Reuters report, at its highest point the St. Thomas hospital was treating about 45 people per day who received a Methylprednisolone Acetate injection. The hospital received about 2,000 of the vials suspected of being contaminated with a fungus that could cause this deadly outbreak.
As the outbreak develops and more victims are identified, state and federal health authorities are working to educate not only the public but also health care officials on the hallmarks of this rare infection, including telltale early signs of an infection like a stiff neck, a worsening headache, and fever.
Questions have also been raised about the possible license violations at NECC that allowed so many vials of Methylprednisolone Acetate to be shipped from the compounding lab in Massachusetts to all these health centers. NECC is reportedly only authorized to distribute Methylprednisolone Acetate vials on an as-needed basis, if prescriptions for the drug are confirmed before they’re made.