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Maitland Chiropractor: 28 Deaths Now Linked to Steroid Shots for Back or Neck Pain; 356cases

An outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to steroid shots for back pain has now killed 28 people, with 356 confirmed cases, according to the latest numbers from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). And most of the cases have been caused by a mold that’s never been known to cause meningitis before.

Cases have been identified in 19 states including: Florida (23 cases), Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. Ten of the people infected have been infected with a black mold called Exserohilum rostratum, CDC officials told doctors in a conference call on Wednesday 10/10/2012. While at first the outbreak was linked to another mold called Aspergillus, just one of 11 patients whose tests have come back so far has been infected with that particular fungus.

Exserophilum has not been linked to meningitis before, Dr. Tom Chiller of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases said. This makes it tricky to treat. So the CDC is recommending a strong intravenous cocktail of two antifungal drugs called voriconazole and lipsomal amphotericin B for as long as patients can tolerate it. “We realize these are two antifungal medicines that are toxic,” Chiller said. He said CDC is still trying to figure out the best dose and the best length of time to treat patients.

Both of the molds are found commonly in nature – in soil and on plants. Aspergillus can cause lung infections and has in rare cases caused meningitis. Exserophilum can cause skin infections and can infect the heart, but had not been found in spinal fluid before.

The antifungal drugs used to treat this can damage the kidneys and have other toxic side-effects; the CDC doesn’t recommend treating anyone who isn’t showing symptoms. Most of the patients who have tested positive for signs of fungal meningitis have a headache, neck pain or nausea, Chiller said. A few patients also have reported dizziness or sensitivity to light. Most of the patients who have died had strokes, Chiller said.

It is possible the fungus is escaping into the bloodstream and brain and is causing the strokes, he said. CDC says as many as 13,000 people may have been given injections with steroids from the three lots clearly linked with contamination. The New England Compounding Center, a pharmacy in Framingham, Mass., made all the contaminated lots of drugs and has recalled all of its products. But only patients who received back or neck injections of a steroid called methylprednisolone acetate (methylprednisolone (generic name for Medrol) or some people may refer to it as “prednisone”) from NECC are at risk, the CDC stresses. A person who received an injection with methylprednisolone acetate produced by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) may be at risk of:

1.  Fungal meningitis or non-bacterial and non-viral meningitis aof sub-acute onset, following epidural injection on and after May 21, 2012.

2.  Basilar stroke following epidural injection after May 21, 2012b, who has not received     a diagnostic lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

3.  Evidence of spinal osteomyelitis or epidural abscess at the site of injection following epidural or sacroiliac injection after May 21, 2012.

4  .Septic arthritis c or osteomyelitis of a peripheral joint (e.g., knee) diagnosed following joint injection after May 21, 2012.

a. Clinically diagnosed meningitis meaning one or more of the following symptoms: headache, fever, stiff neck, or photophobia and a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)  profile showing pleocytosis (>5 white blood cells, adjusting for presence of red blood cells) regardless of glucose or protein leves.

b. These people, if possible, should have a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

c. Clinically diagnosed septic arthritis meaning new or worsening pain with presence of effusion or new or worsening effusion (abnormal collection of fluid).

Suspect Case:  A person who has developed an infection of a normally sterile site (e.g., blood, CSF, pleural fluid, peritoneal fluid, pericardial fluid, surgical aspirate, bone, joint fluid, or internal body site [e.g., lymph node, brain]) following use of a product labeled as sterile prepared by the New England Compounding Center (NECC).

And only patients with symptoms should get the risky spinal tap (lumbar puncture) to see if they might have meningitis.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the spinal cord and brain fluid, and it’s usually caused by bacteria or viruses. Fungal meningitis is rare, and it caused more subtle symptoms than the other types. Dr. Paul Been of Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said even testing for meningitis can be dangerous.

“Patients can’t just come in and demand a test,” Been told NBCNews.com in a telephone interview. “It’s definitely an invasive procedure,” he added.

A needle must be used to puncture the spine and take out fluid.

“Patients have to understand,” he said.

He said his emergency room had seen three or four worried patients in the past day, all of them without any symptoms.

Making matters worse, said Chiller, most of the patients will never test positive for fungus in the cerebrospinal fluid. Fungus doesn’t grow well in tests, he told doctors on the call.

So the CDC’s guidelines are to look for signs of inflammation in the fluid instead. If it’s there, then the patients should be treated with the antifungal drugs.  It’s not clear how long the incubation period may be because the fungi grow so slowly.

“I don’t know how far out to tell you to think,” Chiller told the doctors.

Right now, anyone who got a spinal or neck injection of the steroid from NECC between May 21 and September of 2012 needs to keep an eye out for symptoms.

In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration is testing drugs from NECC to see just how many were contaminated and with what fungi. It’s possible there are even more types of fungus growing in the contaminated vials, experts say. FDA scientists spotted fungus in at least one sealed vial.

If you are having neck or back pain, then you definitely should explore a drug free treatment approach like Chiropractic or Acupuncture before drug treatment approaches when possible.  All drugs have side effects.  If you are having neck or back pain call your Maitland Chiropractor today for an evaluation 407-629-5333.

Some common side effects of Medrol (methylprednisolone) are Dizziness; facial flushing; feeling of whirling motion; headache; increased sweating. Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); bloody, black, or tarry stools; changes in body fat; changes in menstrual period; chest pain; fainting; fever, chills, or sore throat; increased hunger, thirst, or urination; mental or mood changes; muscle pain, weakness, or wasting; seizures; severe nausea or vomiting; slow wound healing; stomach pain; sudden, severe dizziness or headache; swelling of the feet or legs; tendon, bone, or joint pain; thinning of the skin; unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual skin sensation; unusual weight gain; vision changes or other eye problems; vomit that looks like coffee grounds.  This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, contact your health care provider.

If you are having neck or back pain, then you definitely should explore a drug free treatment approach like Chiropractic or Acupuncture before drug treatment approaches when possible.  All drugs have side effects.  If you are having neck or back pain call your Maitland Chiropractor today for an evaluation 407-629-5333.  Pain relief could be just a phone call away 407-629-5333.

Resource: CDC: Frequently Asked Questions for Patients: Multistate “Steroid Injection Linked” Meningitis Outbreak Investigation http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/patients/faq-meningitis-outbreak-patients.html


NBC News:  http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/20/14582109-two-more-deaths-tied-to-fungal-meningitis?lite
NBC News:  http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/10/14346842-12-deaths-now-linked-to-fungal-meningitis-137-cases?lite
NBC News: http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/17/14505129-congress-seeks-probe-of-pharmacy-in-fungal-meningitis-outbreak?lite&ocid=msnhp
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis.html
CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/clinicians/casedef_multistate_outbreak.html
CDC: http://emergency.cdc.gov/HAN/han00328.asp
CDC: http://emergency.cdc.gov/HAN/han00327.asp?s_cid=fb_hpot75
CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis.html
CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-map.html
Drugs.com http://www.drugs.com/sfx/methylprednisolone-side-effects.html
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