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East Idaho man diagnosed with fungal meningitis

By Staff Writer
Published On: Oct 10 2012 03:06:39 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 10 2012 07:41:46 PM CDT

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

An eastern Idaho man over 60 who received an epidural steroid injection in September has been diagnosed with noncontagious fungal meningitis that is believed to be associated with a national outbreak being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, this is the first illness in Idaho linked to the steroid injections.

Two Idaho facilities received shipments of the recalled injections -- Walter Knox Memorial Hospital in Emmett, and Pain Specialists of Idaho in Idaho Falls. From the initial investigation, four people received injections from Walter Knox, while the Idaho Falls pain clinic treated 35 people. Both Idaho facilities received shipments of the recalled injections after July 1. Nationally, the CDC estimates 13,000 people received epidural injections from possibly contaminated steroids. 

"We are very concerned for this patient and are working closely with his physicians," says Idaho State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. "We urge patients who received injections from either of these facilities to maintain close contact with their medical providers and notify them if any new symptoms develop over the next few weeks." 

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Cindy Smith-Putnam said the patient is in the Idaho Falls hospital's care. She said the hospital agrees with the department's diagnosis of fungal meningitis based on the CDC's clinical description of the disease.

The patient was injected with the contaminated epidural in late September. 

Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said health officials will watch and monitor patients to find out if they were infected. He said if you were exposed to the contamined steroids, stay in close contact with your physician and report any symptoms immediately.

Symptoms may include a new or worsening headache, dizziness, fever, nausea, and sensitivity to light. A number of people who became ill also had symptoms of stroke, such as weakness or difficulty with speech. Nationally, most of the illnesses are being reported one to four weeks after the injection was received. Fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person.

Across the U.S., including in Idaho, about 138 people from 11 states have become ill with fungal meningitis that is linked to the investigation, with 12 deaths reported. The epidural steroid injections are generally used for people with back pain. All infected patients received an injection with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate prepared by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. The New England Compounding Center has been closed, with all of its products being recalled or withheld from use. The 76 facilities from 23 states received shipments of the potentially contaminated epidural injections are being investigated.

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