ELKHART — A third Elkhart County resident has died from complications with fungal meningitis, a dangerous infection that was transmitted to more than 660 patients in 19 states.
Dr. Dan Nafziger, the county’s health officer, confirmed Friday that a third person from Elkhart County has died in the past week from the infection. There have been 40 deaths nationwide, including nine in the Hoosier state, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Of the 73 cases of fungal meningitis and other localized infections reported in Indiana, 41 have been linked to Elkhart County, Nafziger said.
Doctors around the country began diagnosing patients with fungal meningitis after discovering that tainted back pain medications had been distributed to 75 clinics in 23 states. Six health care facilities in Indiana, including OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart, received batches of the contaminated drugs manufactured by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. All OSMC patients who were exposed to the steroid injections between June 28 and Sept. 26 were contacted.
Fungal meningitis symptoms, which typically appear one to four weeks after being injected, include fever, headaches, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting. Some patients developed severe infections near the injection sites in the weeks and months following their exposure to the tainted drugs.
“I keep hoping that we’re at the end of this, but it does appear that the incubation period for the localized infections like the epidural abscesses or the localized infections close to the spinal cord are just a lot longer than anyone had anticipated and certainly longer than we hoped,” Nafziger said.
Nafziger said that reported cases of fungal meningitis seem to be slowing down nationally but are still trickling in.
“We can’t say that it’s all over yet, but it does seem like it’s slowed down a great deal,” he said.