Fla. facilities identified in meningitis outbreak

2 meningitis cases reported in Marion County; 47 nationwide

Published On: Oct 06 2012 10:00:54 AM EDT   Updated On: Oct 06 2012 11:27:26 AM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The Florida Department of Health says none of the eight facilities in Florida that received the contaminated steroids that caused the current meningitis outbreak are in Jacksonville.

At most, thousands of people could be at risk as part of a nationwide outbreak that's left five people dead and sickened dozens of others.  In addition to Florida, there have been cases reported in Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Michigan.

The 65-year-old woman and 87-year-old man infected in Marion County were expected to recover.

According to the Florida Health Department, officials believe fungal meningitis, which is not transmitted from person to person, was contracted from a contaminated injectable epidural steroids shipped to medical facilities.

Officials said eight facilities in Florida have been identified as having received the shipments from one or more of the contaminated lot numbers.

The Florida facilities include:

Health officials are working with the facilities to determine if there are additional cases of the meningitis and have quarantined the medication, according to a release.

"Our department has asked the facilities to contact all patients who may have been treated with the implicated product to identify patients with neurological illness in need of testing and treatment,” said state Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Rest assured that this outbreak is not contagious and we will continue our work with all stakeholders to ensure that Florida’s residents and visitors are safe.”

Dr. Hendrix of Centra Care, an urgent care center in Sanford, said fungal meningitis is extremely deadly and hard to treat. There are only a few anti-fungal medications on the market.

"Usually, you don't see this type of overwhelming threat to health," said Hendrix.

Meningitis causes an infection to the membrane around the spinal cord and brain.

"Basically, that infection overwhelms the person," said Hendrix.

Unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, fungal meningitis is not contagious.

Scientists with the Centers for Disease Control blame the outbreak on the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. The pharmacy apparently produced fungus-contaminated steroids, specifically Methylprednisolone Acetate, or prednisone.

"We use it.  I probably give several injections a day in urgent care," said Hendrix.

But unlike at Centra Care, where people get prednisone shots for asthma or allergies into their muscles, people diagnosed with meningitis had a shot straight into their spine for back pain.

The pharmacy in question shipped some 17,000 doses across 23 states, including Florida, starting in July.  Doctors are now trying to identify meningitis symptoms that can take up to four weeks to develop in patients.

"When somebody walks into an urgent care center and they say they got a headache and their neck hurts and they're throwing up, that's an immediate transfer to the hospital for a workup for meningitis," said Hendrix.

The medication linked to the outbreak was recalled last week, but the CDC has asked health care providers to stop using all drugs from the New England Compounding Center and to contact any patient who received the contaminated medication.

Several companies manufacture Methylprednisolone Acetate, so patients who are unsure whether they received the contaminated doses are urged to call their health care provider.

The lots of medication that were used on infected patients are:

Infected patients have shown symptoms approximately one to four weeks following their injection. The symptoms include fever, new or worsening headache, nausea, and/or new symptoms consistent with a stroke. Some of the patients’ symptoms were very mild.