Unfortunately, what we have learned recently is that the New England Compounding Company (NECC) in Farmingham, Mass., has recalled a large number of the injectable steroid methylprednisolone acetate because it contains fungal meningitis. Health practitioners have been in contact with thousands of people who may have had injections for back pain tainted with this violent strain.
While as of the writing of this column no Georgians have died from this outbreak, NECC has confirmed that Georgia has received some of the infected steroids, and residents should be extra diligent in watching for symptoms that may mean they are developing fungal meningitis.
Sadly, Tennessee has not been as fortunate, housing the nation’s leading number of deaths related to this outbreak. I’d like to take a brief moment to overview what meningitis is and what the symptoms and possible treatments are.
Surrounding our brains and spinal cord are a layer of skin known as the meninges. When this lining is inflamed (meningitis), our brain and nervous system as a whole suffer and cause critical, sometimes fatal symptoms.
The most common symptoms of meningitis include nausea and vomiting, rapid onset of fever, headaches, stiff neck, inability to stay awake and increased sensitivity to light. Extreme cases can cause permanent disability, coma and death.
Treatment is much more limited for fungal meningitis as opposed to bacterial meningitis because antibiotics do not help. Without the use of antibiotics, doctors are left to combat the symptoms the patient is experiencing, starting with the symptoms which are most dangerous to the patient. For severe cases, treating the symptoms alone don’t help; there are types of antifungal medications that can be used, but the CDC only recommends their use in cases with no other option. Doctors have reported using veroconazole and amphitericin-b with somewhat positive results, but they have to be cautious as to who receives this treatment because of the many adverse side effects the patient may experience as a result of these strong medications.
This outbreak of fungal meningitis is alarming to the public for many reasons, but doctors are also worried because there are so little statistics and cases to study regarding this type of meningitis.
Our hearts go out to those suffering from this outbreak, as well as those that have lost loved ones.
While there are so many negatives that are coming about because of this outbreak, perhaps there will be a few positives that are exposed as well, as we will hopefully be able to study these cases more in depth and find out what works and doesn’t work in regards to treatment.
This is also a wake-up call alerting the government that there should be regulations for compounding pharmacies that are just as stringent as those imposed on companies developing pharmaceuticals.
For more information about fungal or other types of meningitis, visit cdc.gov.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or email@example.com.