Fungal meningitis update: 3 more cases, 1 in Marion
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
The Florida Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday confirmed three more cases of fungal meningitis associated with contaminated pain medication.
One of the patients, a 50-year-old man, is from Marion County and received his shot five weeks ago from the Marion Pain Management Center.
The other two patients are from Escambia County.
Also Wednesday, the department advised all 1,038 Florida patients who received shots of tainted methylprednisolone acetate to get a checkup six weeks after injection — even if they aren't exhibiting signs or symptoms of fungal meningitis.
How many of those 1,038 patients are from Marion? Officials have not said.
However, the three Marion County clinics that received tainted lots of the medication administered about 500 shots. Some patients may have received more than one injection.
Many local patients already have presented at local hospitals, Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville and even the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for testing, observation or treatment.
All 1,038 have been notified of what's happening.
Dr. John Armstrong, the state health secretary, said county health departments and the clinics that administered the shots will coordinate this follow-up care.
The financial cost will be left to the facilities, patients and health departments to resolve in the context of continuing care.
Why the six-week window? “This is not a typical infection,” Armstrong said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
As he previously noted, the average incubation period for the fungal meningitis is 14 days, with a range of seven to 81 days.
The tainted drugs were manufactured and distributed by the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Massachusetts. That company is the subject of state and national health investigations, a federal criminal probe and multiple lawsuits, including one in Marion.
Nationwide, 308 patients have contracted fungal meningitis in 17 states. That includes 22 patients in Florida, 15 of whom are in Marion County. The rest are in Escambia.
There have been 23 deaths, including three in Marion.
Six Florida clinics administered tainted lots of the medication. Three of those clinics are in Marion and two in Escambia.
The Escambia patients are a 60-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman, both of whom received treatment at the Pain Consultants of West Florida, the Department of Health said in a news release.
The woman received her shot 11 weeks ago; the man got his 10 weeks ago.
Though the compounding pharmacy in question is in Massachusetts, Armstrong and other state officials are gaining insights that could influence state oversight of Florida facilities.
“We are certainly taking lessons,” Armstrong said during the news conference.
As he has done consistently since this outbreak surfaced, Armstrong urged patients to “remain alert to the early signs of infection.”
The symptoms include: fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and altered mental status.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the state released a preliminary report this week saying that NECC “repeatedly failed to follow standard procedures to keep its facility clean and its products sterile,” according to a New York Times report.
Massachusetts officials “paint(ed) a harrowing picture of a company that flouted crucial rules as it hurried to ship drugs around the country,” the Times said.
Among the top findings: NECC “shipped some orders of the drug implicated in the outbreak without waiting for the final results of sterility testing. And while company records indicate that the tests found no contamination, regulators said they were skeptical of the company's methods,” the Times reported.