Third death in fungal meningitis outbreak confirmed

A third death in Indiana has been attributed to a multistate fungal meningitis outbreak and has ties to Elkhart County.

Posted on Oct. 24, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — A third death attributed to a multistate fungal meningitis outbreak has been confirmed in Elkhart County.

Dr. Dan Nafziger, the county’s health officer, said Wednesday that three people have died after receiving contaminated injections for back pain.

Roughly 1,500 Hoosiers were exposed to tainted medications distributed by the New England Compounding Center, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. There have been 41 people who have contracted fungal meningitis in Indiana, including 28 in Elkhart County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has been tracking the number of fungal meningitis reports since Oct. 6 and classifying cases based on where the victims received injections. However, Nafziger said the Indiana State Department of Health plans to begin categorizing cases based on each patient’s residence. That could shift the number of cases reported in Elkhart County, Nafziger said.

Nafziger said number of cases may be adjusted if patients from outside the county received injections here, but he expects the amount of cases to remain in the mid to high 20s. For example, a woman from Cassopolis, Mich. was diagnosed with fungal meningitis after receiving contaminated steroid medications in Elkhart. Her death on Oct. 10 was counted for Indiana, but her death is expected to be included among Michigan’s fatalities.

Six clinics in Indiana, including OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart, received batches of the tainted drugs. The outbreak has now spread to 17 states with 317 people infected. There have been 24 deaths across the country linked to fungal meningitis, according to the most recent figures from the CDC.

Medical staff said Tuesday that 10 patients are being treated at Elkhart General Hospital for fungal meningitis. An Elkhart man who is recovering from the potentially deadly infection has filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the contaminated medications.

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