The number of people infected by an outbreak of meningitis in the United States is expected to grow Tuesday, as health officials identify more patients injected with a potentially contaminated steroid treatment linked to the infection, officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“We know that 13,000 people received the injection,” said Jamila Jones, a public affairs specialist for the CDC in Atlanta. “They received it at facilities across the country. They are at risk.”
Eight people have died and 105 cases of meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, have been confirmed across nine states. Several other infected patients suffered strokes.
According to a report by the CDC, fungal meningitis is extremely rare and symptoms include severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever.
While the disease is not contagious and can be treated with high-dose antifungal medications, it could take up to four weeks for patients to experience symptoms, meaning even more people could be infected and not know it yet. That leaves health officials and law enforcement clamoring to track down patients who might be affected by the outbreak.
The steroid that potentially caused the infections is called methylprednisolone acetate, a drug commonly used to treat lower back pain.
More than 17,000 vials of the steroid were shipped to at least 23 states from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Since then the company has shut down its operations and has issued a voluntary recall on all of its products.
In addition to the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy are investigating the outbreak.