Meningitis Outbreak Linked to Massachusetts Pharma Company

A pounding headache, uncomfortable fever, and disgusting nausea are just a few of the symptoms that are affecting people across the United States today. They may also have a stiff neck, feel dizzy and have eye discomfort from bright lights. Almost half of the states have citizens who have these symptoms and it’s not because of the common flu. Actually, it is a meningitis outbreak, and the company that may be responsible for it all can be found in our very own state – Massachusetts.

Meningitis is “an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord, usually due to the spread of an infection.” While some forms of meningitis can be spread to others, the outbreak that will affect thousands of people this week is not contagious and has been categorized as a fungal infection. Meningitis, for some people, can resolve itself in a couple of weeks but for others it has been known to be life-threatening. In fact, there have been eight deaths reported so far this week as a result of the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) are conducting an ongoing investigation regarding this outbreak, predicting that as many as 13,000 patients might have received products from the New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc. (also known as New England Compounding Center). The source of the outbreak is believed to be this pharmaceutical company, which is based in Framingham, Massachusetts. Due to the medical alarm among federal and state health officials, the New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc. announced over the weekend a voluntary “recall of all products currently in circulation that were compounded at and distributed” at its facility. While meningitis is believed to be found in one of its products, the company decided to cease its operations over the weekend and recall all of its products as a precautionary safety measure.
This pharmaceutical company’s theoretical tainted product is an epidural steroid injection, a medication that is injected into the spine. This injection is believed to have fungal meningitis, a form of meningitis that causes gradual symptoms and appear mild at first. Patients from 23 states have received these injections.

The New England Compounding Pharmacy, Inc., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration are all working to ensure that the proper measures are taken in response to this outbreak. The health care providers that have received the steroid injection are being instructed by fax to cease use of the product immediately and to notify potentially infected patients. While the steroid injection can be the original source of the outbreak, the CDCP have not made this determination and is investigating other potential sources of the spread of meningitis.

Source: Regulations Eyed in Meningitis Outbreak, CBS News, October 11, 2012

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