Three more meningitis cases in Marion County


Published: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.

Florida health officials reported four new cases of meningitis linked to contaminated doses of steroids on Friday, including three Marion County women who were injected with the steroids at local pain management clinics.

The new cases include a 53-year-old woman who received treatment at Pain Consultants of West Florida in Escambia County. The remaining three cases were all from Marion County: a 69-year-old woman and a 71-year-old woman, who both received treatment at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala, and a 73-year-old woman who was treated at the Marion Pain Management Center.

The disease is linked to the contaminated steroid methylprednisolone acetate, which was manufactured by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Massachusetts. Three lots of the steroid, used primarily for epidural back injections, are linked to the outbreak.

On Thursday, the first Florida lawsuit was filed against NECC when the family of a Marion County man was allegedly paralyzed by the contaminated medicine. The family of 87-year-old Godwin Mitchell of Reddick filed the lawsuit in the Orange County Courthouse. There has been at least one other lawsuit filed in another state.

It’s estimated that as many as 17,000 vials of the suspect steroid was shipped to 23 states. Health officials say as many as 14,000 people were injected. By Friday, there were 271 confirmed cases in 16 states and 21 deaths.

NECC relinquished its Florida pharmacy license and will never be allowed to reapply for one again, said Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong during a telephone conference Friday.

“Relinquishment is considered disciplinary action,” Armstrong said.

In addition, Armstrong is asking health facilities with any of NECC’s medicines manufactured since May 21 to remove them from their inventory.

Armstrong said during the teleconference that the Florida Department of Health passed the request along to all 260 Florida facilities that received any NECC medicines, even those that are not suspected of being tainted.

Armstrong is asking those facilities to contact all their patients that had exposure to any NECC products and tell them of the potential risk of contamination.

Although only the contaminated steroid from NECC is linked to the fungal meningitis, in “an abundance caution” he wanted patients told of the meningitis outbreak. Residents with questions or concerns can call a meningitis hotline at 866-523-7339.

“All patient settings in Florida are free of these contaminated steroids, and we will continue to assist our federal and state counterparts to ensure that NECC products are not available in any health care facility and practice in Florida,” Armstrong said during the teleconference.

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