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Fungal Meningitis Outbreak – What Is It?

National headlines continue to be made about the fungal meningitis outbreak linked to tainted epidural injections given to patients. As we explained yesterday, the problem has thus far been linked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to a pharmaceutical compounding plant in New England. The compounding plant–which takes drugs made elsewhere and turns them into appropriate doses–apparently sent over 17,000 of vials of a certain steroids that may have been exposed. Several Illinois clinics received those batches and gave some patients painkiller shot in the back with the dangerous drug.

Thus far nationwide over 100 people have been infected with the fungal meningitis. Officials explain that over 13,000 may have been exposed to the dangerous steroid injections between July and September of this year. The drugs have since been recalled, so no more patients should be at risk
So what exactly is fungal meningitis and how can it be identified?

The CDC explains that meningitis generally refers to an inflammation of protective membranes (known as “meninge”). Those membranes cover the brain and spinal cord. In most cases the inflammation is traced back to bacteria or virus. However, in very rare cases a fungus may be at the root of the problem. That is what seems to have happened in this case.

Fungal meningitis develops when a fungus enters the bloodstream (from a different part of the body, like the back via a painkiller injection) and infects the protective membrane. While epidural injections are the suspected cause in this outbreak, the CDC notes that it represents a very rare occurrence. In most cases, epidural injections are extremely safe with few complications. Importantly, while “epidural” is a colloquial phrase used to refer to pain medication given to women during childbirth, that is not the same thing as the drug linked to these cases of fungal meningitis.

The attorneys at our firm know that it is critical for local residents to understand the warnings signs so that emergency steps can be taken if necessary. Doctors note that the symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to those seen in other forms of meningitis. Critically, however, they note that the fungal symptoms may be slower to develop than those forms of meningitis caused by other pathogens. This means that the symptoms may be mild at first–though the long-term outcomes can be just as serious as other forms of the condition.

For this reasons, residents in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois should be on the lookout for all signs of the condition if they were exposed to the infected drugs. Those signs include fever, headache, neck stiffness, nausea, confusion, dizziness, and sensitivity to light. Even if you experience just some of these, be sure to seek out medical help. There is no reason to risk not receiving potentially life-saving treatments as soon as possible.

The attorneys at our firm are also available to help all those affected by this situation protect their legal rights. It is critical that those affected have access to the resources they need to recover fully and compensate them for their losses.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Filed for Failure to Diagnose Meningitis in 14-year old Girl

Thousands May Be Affected By Meningitis Outbreak