October 23, 2012

The Personal Toll of the Meningitis Outbreak

by Levin & Perconti

Over 14,000 individuals across the country are at risk of developing fungal meningitis as a result of several batches of contaminated spinal steroid injections. As we have previously explained, medical patients in at least 23 states received the injections for back pain which, unbeknownst to them, put them at risk of fungal meningitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of special membranes around the brain and spinal cord. It most often develops as a result of pathogens like viruses or bacteria. However, in rare situations it can also be caused by a fungus.

One unique aspect of the fungus is its long latency period. It can incubate for weeks or even months. That means that those who received the spinal steroid injections contaminated with fungus might not learn for quite some time whether or not they contracted the illness as a result of the now-recalled product. Over 17,000 vials were made but experts eplain that about 14,000 were given out before the problem was discovered and the recall. Thus far at least 282 patients have been positiviely identified as having contracted the illness with 23 deaths. The deaths are primarily caused by strokes which themselves were caused by the fungal meningitis.

The Waiting Game
A New York Times story this week on the ordeal discusses one overlooked aspect of the fiasco--the toll on the thousands who are forced to wait on pins and needles before learning whether or not they contracted the meningitis. This issue is present in all cases of mass outbreak and pharmaceutical errors. All those who were exposed to the pathogens are forced to take tests and endure the emotional and mental toll of worrying about the possible effects. This damage is compounded in cases like this where there is a long incubation period. It may not necessarily be as simple as taking one test and knowing soon after whether or not you are in the clear. Instead, families often have to wait weeks or even months before being completely confident that they escaped without contamination.

It is hard to fully appreciate this toll out of context. The NYT story, for example, shared the story of a mother and daughter who both recieved the injections for back pain. They were shocked to learn recently of the contamination issue--both of them are at risk of contracting the meningitis. Thus far neither the mother or the daughter has shown clear signs of any problems. However, because of the unique properties of the fungus, they are still not certain whther they might face problems down the road. This uncertainty has led to significant stress and worry. The daughter explained that “we’re both terrified that the other one is going to come down with it,” She went on to note that she has clear concerns for her mother, because her age might make it far tougher for her to battle against the condition, noting, "She’s 80 years old, and if she were to come down with it, she would have very little chance of survival.”

Seek Out an Chicago Meningitis Outbreak Lawyer
It is a tragedy that so many local families are forced to endure this preventable problem. All those responsible for this outbreak must be forced to pay for the consequences of their misconduct. Fortuantely, the civil justice system provides a way to demand that responsibility and ensure those affected are compensated for their losses. In our area, please reach out to our Chicago lawyers who are working with those affected by this fungal meningitis outbreak.

See Our Related Blog Posts:
Latest Updates on Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

First Illinois Diagnosis in Fungal Meningitis Outbreak