Oct 11 (Reuters) - Many Americans are concerned about a deadly outbreak of a rare form of meningitis that may be tied to contaminated steroid medication used mainly for injections to reduce back pain.
Here is some information from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention briefing on Thursday:
** Nearly 14,000 people may be at risk of contracting meningitis after receiving injections into the back or joints from steroid medication that may have been contaminated with a fungus. Of those, more than 12,000, or 90 percent, have been contacted by health authorities since the product was recalled on Sept. 26. Health authorities are trying to find the others.
** The product, called methylprednisolone acetate, was shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states and is used mainly for epidural injections to alleviate back pain, or for injections to joints such as the knee, shoulder or ankle. The CDC has posted a map with a list of facilities that received the potentially contaminated steroid at http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-facilities-map.html.
The 23 states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and West Virginia, the CDC said.
** Fourteen people had been confirmed dead of meningitis in the outbreak as of Thursday and 169 people have been stricken with meningitis after receiving an injection. One other person, in Michigan, has contracted an infection in the ankle after receiving an injection, but tests are not yet conclusive for a fungal infection. Cases have been discovered in 11 states and deaths have occurred in six states - Tennessee, Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Maryland and Virginia.
** Patients who have had an epidural steroid injection or injection in a joint at a clinic or practice associated with any of the facilities listed by the CDC since May 21, 2012, should talk to their doctors as soon as possible if they are suffering characteristic symptoms. Those include worsening headaches, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, weakness or numbness and/or slurred speech. Patients normally experience symptoms within one to four weeks after the injection, but it could be longer. The median time after injection to when symptoms begin is two weeks. The longest period among the cases seen so far has been 42 days, and health experts said patients should be vigilant for months after an injection.
** Meningitis is an extremely serious infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is important to treat it quickly with anti-fungal medications in order to arrest the disease. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.
** The meningitis outbreak does not raise any concerns about other injections such as flu shots, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration said. Consumers should follow recommendations as normal for getting flu shots, which are regulated by the FDA and are completely unrelated to the medications suspected in the infections and deaths in recent weeks.
SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and briefing on Oct. 11 by CDC, FDA and Massachusetts state authority on the meningitis outbreak. (Compiled by Greg McCune; Editing by Peter Cooney)