Patients at Risk of Meningitis Find Relief in Negative Test Results

Becky Adams

Becky Adams of Mt. Juliet says she hesitated to get a spinal tap test for fungal meningitis but now wishes she had done it sooner. Photo credit Blake Farmer/WPLN

The outbreak of fungal meningitis continues to widen from its epicenter in Tennessee, with a dozen deaths nationwide. At-risk patients who’ve gotten tested are finding some relief in negative results.

At some point, Becky Adams of Mt. Juliet just couldn’t take the wondering. The 42-year-old mother of three came back from vacation to a letter saying she might have had one of the tainted injections. She got a steroid shot for spinal pain last month.

“You think tomorrow I’m going to wake up with this horrible headache and not be able to walk or something.”

Her obsessive Internet research about the symptoms of fungal meningitis had given her a pounding headache. On Tuesday, Adams went to St. Thomas Hospital’s ER to get a spinal tap test and found herself surrounded by a dozen others anxiously waiting. In 45 minutes, she had preliminary results.

“I know that they had to send them off to the CDC and culture them and look for growth over a couple of weeks. I’m not worried about it. My headache is gone, magically.”

Adams wonders why the hundreds of people in Tennessee who were exposed weren’t automatically scheduled for tests.

But the Centers for Disease Control is still saying there’s no need for people without symptoms to be tested. A state Health Department spokesman says there has been some concern about flooding hospitals with unnecessary spinal taps.

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