Five people have died and 35 people in six states are in the hospital due to a rare strain of fungal meningitis because of a tainted injectable steroid that's prescribed for back pain. But even scarier is news that hundreds, even thousands of people who received the treatment could be at risk. According to the AP, people who received shots of the recalled methylprednisolone acetate drug between July and September could be at risk. "The pharmacy involved, the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., has recalled three lots consisting of a total of 17,676 single-dose vials of the steroid," reports the AP but even with the recall, many were used. The company has relinquished its pharmacy license, reports NECN-TV. "At one clinic in Evansville, Ind., more than 500 patients received shots from the suspect lots, officials said. At two clinics in Tennessee, more than 900 patients — perhaps many more — did," adds the AP.
It's important to keep in mind that not every vial of medicine was tainted and not every person who got the shot will get sick. But people who are getting sick are fighting a deadly and rare form of meningitis that (thankfully) isn't contagious. What makes this difficult is that the incubation period of the disease is making it tricky to pinpoint who is getting sick and when. "The time from infection to onset of symptoms is anywhere from a few days to a month, so the number of people stricken could rise," writes the AP. As we mentioned yesterday, health officials and the Centers for Disease Control are totally freaked out because they believe that up to 23 states could be affected; there are cases in Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana at the moment and state news reports in New Jersey and Minnesota today say health officials in both states were alerted that patients treated by clinics in those states were given the steroid.