Doctors evaluate Upstate woman for fungal meningitis as cases climb
Fungal meningitis cases continued to rise nationally as a woman in the Spartanburg area was reportedly being evaluated for symptoms of the rarely seen, potentially deadly illness believed to be related to tainted pain medicine.
By the numbers
Case Count: 170
Also, a woman who died of fungal meningitis Sept. 30 after receiving a spinal steroid shot for back pain was reported to be the stepmother of a Mount Pleasant resident, Jill Cary Bloser. A memorial service was held Tuesday for Lilian Cary, 67, of Howell, Mich. Her husband, George Cary, said he received similar injections for back pain from possibly tainted steroids, but still is awaiting the results of a spinal tap last weekend, The Associated Press reported.
A phone message left at Bloser’s home seeking comment was not returned. Her Facebook page featured a photo of Bloser and her mom with accompanying condolence messages.
So far, South Carolina has had no confirmed cases of fungal meningitis, but 12 people in the Charleston area who received spinal injections of a suspect steroid have been referred for a lumbar puncture to test for the presence of the illness.
Also, more than 200 Charleston-area residents who received spinal shots of the pain medicine linked with cases of fungal meningitis have been contacted by their doctor to discuss the situation. They were patients at Intervene MD of North Charleston and Mount Pleasant, the only clinic in South Carolina said to be affected.
Health officials have focused their investigation on a link between the infections and spinal injections of contaminated methylprednisolone acetate steroid made by the New England Compounding Center. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that at least one unopened vial of the drug was found to contain a fungus.
The Upstate woman, who received a spinal injection of a steroid, will have a spinal tap this week to investigate her symptoms. It is not known yet who made the steroid or where she was injected with it, said Don Migliori, an attorney with the Motley Rice Law Firm.
“That’s all still under investigation. Sadly, cases are springing up quickly and there’s still a lot of chaos given the number of people potentially affected,” he said.
The number of fungal meningitis cases rose Thursday to 170, up from 137 on Wednesday. Two more fatal cases of the infection raised the death toll to 14.
Eleven states are affected, including Idaho, which was added to the list in the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The common factor in the fungal meningitis infections is spinal injections of steroids used to manage chronic pain. The disease is not contagious.
“It’s not often that you get meningitis symptoms and a history of steroid injections. When both are present, this New England Compounding Center connection is critical to investigate given the rapid acting, lethal nature of the disease,” Migliori said.
NECC in Framingham, Mass., used the compounding process to make drugs such as methylprednisolone acetate on a large scale. Investigators said they are looking at the extent of fungal contamination in 17,700 doses of the steroid made by the company using the compounding process. As many as 13,000 people could be affected, officials said.
Currently, the FDA does not have jurisdiction over compounding pharmacies until there is a problem. FDA officials say they have been fighting to change that for more than 20 years. In Massachusetts, where NECC is located, compounding pharmacies are inspected when they are licensed and in response to complaints, CNN reported.
Because of the situation, two lawmakers are introducing bills to strengthen the FDA’s oversight of compounding pharmacies.