Twenty-five patients in Tennessee have been infected with a rare form of fungal meningitis, according to the Tennessee Department of Health, and three patients in the state have died.
The infection is thought to be tied to either cervical or lumbar epidural steroid injections at clinics in Nashville and Crossville. Patients at a third facility in Oak Ridge may have been exposed to medication from an contaminated lot, but no cases of illness have been confirmed at that facility.
The Tennessee Department of Health is working with Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville, the PCA Pain Center in Oak Ridge and the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville. The date range for possible exposure includes July 1 to Sept. 28. According to a Wednesday media briefing, one patient received an epidural steroid injection at the Crossville clinic.
The TDH believes the infection to be fungal, and aspergillus fumigatus has been isolated from one patient. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found a sealed vial of the drug methylprednisolone acetate contained a fungal contaminant. The drugs came from New England Compounding Center, NECC. These drugs were shipped to 23 states. Three lots of the drug have been recalled and NECC has shut down its operations.
The Centers for Disease Control have advised ceasing use of all materials compounded and distributed by the company, though there is no evidence to date other products from NECC are implicated in the outbreak.
The form of meningitis in these patients is not contagious or transmitted from person to person. Meningitis is a general term for an infection or inflammatory process involving the lining of the brain and central nervous system. The cases under investigation have no relation to the much more common forms of bacterial or viral meningitis.
The TDH and the Tennessee Poison Control Center have partnered to answer questions from the public about meningitis. Call 1-800-222-1222.