Five dead in US meningitis outbreak

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 06, 2012 03:50 hrs

Washington, Oct 6 (IANS) At least five people have died and 42 infected in a deadly meningitis outbreak linked to a contaminated drug, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.

The hardest-hit state was Tennessee, where health officials said Friday that the number of cases had risen to 29, including three deaths, Xinhua reported Saturday.

The number of cases in Virginia totalled six; Michigan, four; Indiana, three; Maryland and Florida two each, and North Carolina had one case.

Public health officials have contacted patients in 23 states who had received the potentially contaminated steroid injection -- typically for back pain -- and urged them to be tested for the rare fungal infection.

"All patients who may have received these medications need to be tracked down immediately," Benjamin Park of the US Centers was quoted as saying.

"It is possible that if patients with infection are identified soon and put on appropriate antifungal therapy, lives may be saved."

The Food and Drug Administration said it had detected a fungal contaminant in a sealed vial of the drug produced by the New England Compounding Center.

While further testing was required to confirm it was the source of the outbreak, the company has issued a recall of all its products and has shut down all operations.

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