Officials Struggle to Get a Handle on Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

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For weeks now, the Centers for Disease Control and officials from other agencies across the country have been scrambling to make sure that persons in danger of suffering a fungal meningitis infection have been notified of the threat.  Thanks to their effort, numerous patients who received steroid injections to treat lower back pain have been notified of the risk, and many people who reported symptoms have been treated thusly.  However, a new report explains that even those who previously thought they were in the clear might still be in danger.

First, some background is in order.  Authorities learned recently that patients who received the aforementioned injections from the New England Compounding Centers could be in danger of an infection.  In some cases, this infection has already proven fatal, and an estimated 30 persons have already died because of complications stemming from this condition.  The CDC has received 409 reports of fungal meningitis, plus another ten instances of some other type of joint infection.

At this point, anyone who thinks they might be in the at-risk category is being advised to seek out a healthcare professional should back pain manifest.  Doctors will be able to conduct tests that should be able to ascertain whether an infection has indeed taken place.  Complicating matters is the fact that the people in danger of an infection received the treatment for back pain in the first place, so it’s up to doctors to figure out if the new pain is a sign of an infection or simply the previous condition.

Now, though, a further threat has been highlighted.  Doctors are reporting that patients in the midst of recovery are suffering anew from more serious infections of the spine.  Up to 33% of fungal meningitis victims could suffer some such infection.  There are two types of threats becoming apparent.  The first is the prevalence of infection pockets known as epidural abscesses.  The second is a more serious type of deep infection known as arachnoiditis.

Treatment for the abscesses typically takes the form of a surgical procedure meant to drain the pus and cut out the dead, infected tissue.  In addition, patients would likely have to submit to taking antifungal medications for months afterward.  Doctors worry that even though the risk will necessarily not be as great as time passes, the unique nature of this outbreak means that medical professionals have to expect the unexpected.  The injection of fungus directly into a person’s spine is unheard of and offers a unique set of challenges, some of which doctors are just now beginning to understand.

Keep up with the news about this infection, and make sure that you do whatever you can to remain safe.