Third death reported in Marion County from fungal meningitis


Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 3:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 3:26 p.m.

A third death linked to fungal meningitis in Marion County was reported Wednesday by the Florida Department of Health.

Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong said during a telephone conference that the 78-year-old Marion County man died earlier this week. He said he did not know if the man was receiving treatment at the time of his death.

The man was the 13th confirmed person with the disease in Florida — 10 in Marion County and three in Escambia County. All three deaths were in Marion County.

Armstrong said the man received an injection of the contaminated steroid methylprednisolone acetate on Aug. 28 and began reporting symptoms on Oct. 6. He received his injection at the Marion Pain Management Center in Ocala.

The average age of the people in the confirmed Florida cases is 72 and the average incubation time from the time of injection of the contaminated steroid to the onset of symptoms is 23 days, Armstrong said.

A 70-year-old man was injected with the contaminated steroid at the Florida Pain Clinic and died in July before health officials knew of the outbreak. An 83-year-old man died last week. He had received his injection at the Marion Pain Management Center.

The owner of the Florida Pain Management Clinic is disputing that his patient died of fungal meningitis.

The Surgery Center of Ocala also received and injected potentially contaminated steroid doses.

The three local clinics administered up to 500 shots of the tainted medicine, though some patients likely received more than one shot.

Eight Florida medical facilities received the tainted steroid. Of the eight, six injected doses into 1,038 patients. All but 11 patients have been notified of the health risks.

The contaminated steroid was manufactured by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. It is estimated that as many as 17,000 vials of the suspect steroid were shipped to 23 states and injected into as many as 14,000 people.

Armstrong said the Florida Department of Health is urging all 260 Florida medical facilities that received any medicines from the New England Compounding Center to contact their patients and tell them of possible contamination risks.

Armstrong said, however, that only methylprednisolone acetate has been linked to the fungal meningitis outbreak.

More than 140 people in Marion County injected with the tainted steroid have gone to area hospitals. Sixteen remain hospitalized.

Asked during Wednesday’s teleconference about the effectiveness of the anti-fungal medicines doctors are using to treat sick patients, Armstrong said only that the treatment is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

There currently are 247 confirmed cases of fungal meningitis in 15 states. The latest death in Marion County brings the toll to 19 people in six states as of Wednesday, according to the CDC.

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