The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the city’s first case of meningitis is also Illinois’ first case resulting from contaminated steroid shots. To date, 15 people nationwide have been killed by this outbreak.
The unnamed Chicagoan underwent an epidural steroid injection with the drug coming from one of the three known contaminated pharmacies in the New England Compounding Center, according to Illinois Department of Public Health. The New England Compounding Center is a Massachusetts pharmaceutical factory which manufactures the injections. It has since been stripped of all licenses, and indeed, has been forced to shut down all operations altogether.
“The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to work with local and federal officials investigating the multi-state meningitis outbreak,” IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said.
As indicated above, this fungal meningitis outbreak is linked to contaminated epidural steroid medications. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outbreak investigation update October 13, there are 198 cases reported to date.
One case, however, is actually an infection of a peripheral joint, according to CDC. Indiana reports an additional fatality making a national total of 15 deaths.
Illinois (Chicago) is the 13th state to report a case associated with this outbreak.
The CDC fungal laboratory is attempting to isolate the mold, Exserohilum using clinical specimens taken from people with meningitis. So far, only one case has been confirmed to be the mold, Aspergillus.
Clinical Team Leader of the Multistate Meningitis Outbreak and Director of the Office of Health Associated Infections Prevention Research and Evaluation with the CDC, Dr. John Jernigan says, “Given that fungal infections of this kind have never been seen before, the doctors caring for these patients are going to need guidance....The CDC has brought under one roof the nation’s top clinical fungal experts to develop diagnostic and treatment regimens for this disease."
Finally, the CDC is offering clinical guidance for treatment of fungal meningitis infections.
Now that this disease is beginning to hit large, crowded, urban areas, it is even more imperative that an effective treatment and cure be found – and found quickly. Meningitis is highly contagious. It is most easily spread through respiratory secretions. Children who are not yet toilet trained and their caretakers may also contract and spread the disease.
Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding both the brain and spinal cord. That covering or membrane is known collectively as the meninges. Inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs. Sterioids are the suspected culprit in the instant cases. Because of the extremely close proximity to the brain and spinal cord, meningitis is always considered life-threatening.
Infection, however, does not always lead to the disease. Common sense should guide one in avoiding infection. Do not allow people to cough, sneeze, or yawn directly in your face. Also, frequent handwashing and cleansing of surfaces with chlorine bleach mixed with water will usually keep these particular bugs at bay.
Symptoms of meningitis include headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and light intolerance (photophobia) or sensitivity to loud noises (phonophobia). Children may only have generalized or nonspecific symptoms -- irritability and drowsiness.
This particular form of meningitis is generally active only in the summer and early fall.
Preliminary (and leaked) results of various investigations and reports indicate that this pharmaceutical combine has been known to cut corners in the past. It's owners have called for less rather than more regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. As the video accompanying this report indicates, at least one family who has allegedly been victimized by this company and this industry is calling for greater regulation of this essentially wide open industry.
Yes, whether its called a "breakout" or "outbreak," this soon-to-be epidemic may quickly reach pandemic proportions. It is, therefore, as much a political matter, question, and issue as it is a health or medical care concern.
As a lifelone resident of Chicago, the rest of the country (if not the world) must consider the red flag raised.