Meningitis is a rare, life threatening disease. Mortality is high but normally the infection rates are low. So to see a spike of infections in one geographic area is very frightening:
“Eighteen of the cases are in Tennessee, where a Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of the steroid.. Investigators, though, say they are still trying to confirm the source of the infection.
Three cases have been reported in Virginia, two in Maryland, two in Florida and one in North Carolina. Two of the deaths were in Tennessee, and Virginia and Maryland had one each, said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More new cases are almost certain to appear in the coming days, said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner. Five new cases were confirmed over the past 24 hours, he said Wednesday, calling the situation a “rapidly evolving outbreak.”
So should you panic? Not at all.
The spike of infections is linked to a contaminated batch of steroid injections given into the spinal canal of back pain sufferers. The infectious agent is a kind of fungus and is not contagious. This is good news for all of us who don’t need injections against spinal pain!
For those who do need the injections, and especially for those who received the injection recently, the picture is very different. The fungus is highly resistant to common antibiotic treatments used against infection. Also, because it is injected directly into the spine and is mixed with a steroid agent, it is highly resistant to normal immune system defenses. This means that this meningitis infection is very, very serious!
For those who need a spinal injection regularly, I recommend speaking to your GP before getting it done. There may be an argument to consider a temporary alternative – such as an intra-muscular injection, until all the contaminated batches are removed from circulation.
For those who already had the injection, especially in the last few days – I urge you to contact you GP urgently! You may need round-the-clock monitoring or even preventative treatment if contamination is suspected. For you this could be a matter of life and death.