WILSON - Health officials said a fungal meningitis outbreak has killed 8 people in the United States and infected more than 100 across nine states, including North Carolina.
The disease has been traced to a steroid shot often used to ease back pain. The Massachusetts pharmacy that made the steroid recalled the medication on Saturday, officials said.
Two cases have been diagnosed in North Carolina; however, state health officials are not releasing where those cases are. Officials also said three clinics in the state are warning patients about the symptoms of the potentially fatal disease.
67 patients from High Point Surgery Center have been warned about the possible contamination from the spinal injections they received. 26 patients from Eastern Regional Surgical Center in Wilson have also been warned if they received a spinal injection during July, August and September, state officials said.
Joy Wetherington and Tammra Morrison with the Wilson County Health Department said this all started about a week ago when they were notified of the possible contamination in Wilson.
"Everyone has been contacted and we are just waiting and we do not have any confirmed cases at this time," Wetherington said.
"We're looking at a window of one to four weeks [before we will know if someone has been infected]," Morrison said.
Morrison said some of the symptoms include: headaches which can be get worse over time, stiff neck, low grade fever and with this particular type of meningitis there can also be stroke type symptoms.
Many media outlets have reported that Wilson Surgical Associates on Glendale Drive in Wilson is the center where these injections took place. However, in our quest to get the facts right we found the injections actually took place at Eastern Regional Surgical Center nearby. The confusion lies in the fact that the legal name is the surgery center of Wilson; however, the center does business as Eastern Regional Surgical Center.
The center's administrator Meg McNally released a statement that said "The Surgery Center of Wilson learned Monday October 1, 2012 from the North Carolina Department of Health that we received vials of the pain medicine Depomedrol that may have been contaminated with a fungus that can cause spinal meningitis. Twenty six of our patients received injections from the vials from July 30th to September 28th. The center immediately contacted our patients, informed them of the situation and provided information on symptoms that, if present, require additional observation, testing or treatment. We will continue to work with the North Carolina Department of Health to monitor our patients and assist them in accessing the health care they may need."
Julie Henry, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said, The North Carolina Orthopedic Clinic in Durham also used the steroid medication, but for pain-relieving joint injections. All the cases of fungal meningitis in the outbreak have come from spinal injections, Henry said. She also said the Durham clinic is calling 209 patients who received the joint injections as a precautionary method.