13,000 got suspect steroid shots; risk uncertainFungal meningitis cases soar nationally; none reported here

A vial of injectable steroids from the New England Compounding Center is displayed in the Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday. The CDC has said an outbreak of fungal meningitis may have been caused by steroids from the Massachusetts specialty pharmacy.

Eight deaths were reported in nine states Monday as the number of people with fungal meningitis soared to 105, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Officials are investigating whether a steroid contaminated with a fungus is to blame.

No cases of fungal meningitis have been reported in South Carolina.

Locally, Dr. Bruce Frankel, professsor of neurosurgery at the Medical University, said the situation was troubling because 17,000 vials of the apparently fungus-tainted product were shipped to 76 medical facilities in 23 states, including two clinics in the Lowcountry.

“It’s unheard of. Meningitis is very, very rare,” Frankel said.

He said the situation has the potential for becoming much worse.

“Especially with the number of vials of this stuff floating around. It could be catastrophic,” he said.

Officials are concerned that the fungus-contaminated steroid is causing fungal meningitis when it is injected into the spine for pain relief.

Infections after a spinal injection of a steroid for pain relief are very rare, Frankel said.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious. The infection is typically seen in people with poorly-functioning immune systems such as those receiving chemotherapy or people diagnosed with HIV or severe diabetes, he said.

The Medical University has received quite a few calls from concerned patients, Frankel said.

Read more in tomorrow’s editions of The Post and Courier.