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Meningitis Outbreak Death Toll Rises To 7; Third Case Confirmed In Maryland

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BALTIMORE/ATLANTA (AP/WJZ) — Maryland health workers have confirmed one new meningitis case was found in the state. This comes as the death toll rises to seven. Now, doctors are scrambling to notify patients in nine states and Maryland is on that list.

Gigi Barnett reports.

It’s a rare form of fungal meningitis caused by a contaminated steroid injection into the backs and necks of patients and used to treat pain– methylprednisolone acetate produced and distributed by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. The pharmacy, which is now closed, recalled 17,676 single-dose vials of the steroid. Shipments went to clinics in 23 states.

Now, more people nationwide are getting sick from it, including one fatal case found here in Maryland.

“We believe there are probably hundreds of patients who may have received and injection and those cases are currently under investigation,” Dr. Lucy Wilson of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) said.

In Maryland, at least six facilities received and have now discarded the bad batches.

On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new numbers showing the outbreak has spread to more than 60 people across nine states.

Click here to read more about the CDC’s investigation into the meningitis outbreak.

The Maryland health department has confirmed a third meningitis case associated with the tainted steroid injection commonly used to treat back pain.

Doctors say symptoms take between one and four weeks to appear.

The DHMH said it would post updates on its homepage and asks patients who have symptoms of meningitis or a stroke after receiving a methylprednisolone acetate injection to call their doctor immediately. Meningitis symptoms include fever headache, stiffness of the neck, sensitivity to light, nausea or vomiting. Stroke symptoms can include double vision, slurred speech, weakness on one side of the body or difficulty walking.

The clinics that received and recalled the steroid are: Berlin Interventional Pain Management, Berlin; Box Hill Surgery Center, Abingdon; Greenspring Surgery Center, Baltimore; Harford County Ambulatory Surgery Center, Edgewood; SurgCenter of Bel Air, Bel Air and Zion Ambulatory Center, Baltimore.

The DHMH said it is investigating the outbreak with other states, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“It’s upsetting with what could happen,” Scott Amigh said.

This week, Amigh’s doctor called him about a possible infection. He’s awaiting test results and says he’ll find other ways to manage his back pain.

“I actually thought they were working and it’s a temporary pain reliever. But it’s not worth the risk,” he said.

Minnesota and Ohio are the two latest states to report confirmed cases linked to the steroid.

The NECC said it is cooperating with investigators to track the source of the infections.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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