Tennessee Risk Pool Grows in Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

The fungus exserohilum has causes most of the fungal meningitis cases so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The fungus exserohilum has causes most of the fungal meningitis cases so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another 111 people treated for back pain at a St. Thomas Hospital outpatient clinic are being notified of possible exposure to fungal meningitis.

The Tennessee Department of Health has found even more vials of steroid shipped in early June from a now-closed compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.

“As yet, we can’t assure that product was not one of the three recalled lots,” said Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner. “So out of an abundance of caution, we are contacting the group of patients that might be impacted by this information.”

State health officials said Friday they are now keeping tabs on some 1,200 people who had injections. A total of 2,520 vials were sent to Tennessee, and more than 2,000 of those were used, primarily for back injections, says Dr. Marion Kainer, who directs the state’s infections and antimicrobial resistance program.

St. Thomas remains at the center of the outbreak. It has seen a total of 33 infected patients. Two died. Two remain in critical condition. Only one has gone home, and that patient is still on intravenous drugs.

Many more people – 330 – have appeared at the St. Thomas ER wanting a spinal tap test to determine if they have contracted meningitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending only those with symptoms be tested. Dr. Robert Latham says a total of 275 have been given the lumbar puncture for spinal fluid testing.

“This has to be some kind of entry to the Guinness Book of World Records, an entry I wish we could have avoided,” he said.

Nationally, the outbreak showed up in Texas on Friday, with a total of 184 sickened in a dozen states. In Tennessee, health officials say roughly five percent of those believed to have gotten tainted injections have been infected.

Tennessee Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner continues to call the outbreak “uncharted territory,” adding, “it will take months for this whole story to be told.”

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