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Multistate Outbreak of Fungal Meningitis and Other Infections –Resources for Patients

Although further updates to the case counts are not anticipated at this time, patients affected by tainted steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center continue to receive treatment for their infections and clinicians should continue to monitor patient recovery.

CDC will update the relevant clinical materials on this page if there is a significant development in clinical disease management.  All relevant materials for patients and clinicians concerning the multistate outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections are located on this page.

FAQ (English)

Frequently Asked Questions

Background

In September 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with state and local health departments and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), began investigating a multistate outbreak of fungal infections among patients who received contaminated steroid injections.
The infections identified as part of this investigation include fungal meningitis, a form of meningitis that is not contagious, localized spinal or paraspinal infections, and infections associated with injections in a peripheral joint space, such as a knee, shoulder, or ankle.

As the outbreak progressed, the majority of infections reported to CDC were in patients with localized spinal or paraspinal infections (e.g., epidural abscess). These types of infection are typically diagnosed through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the spine.

Patients who received a spinal or paraspinal injection with the contaminated product and have continued, worsening, or new symptoms at or near the site of their injection, should see their doctor for the possibility of a localized infection. This includes patients who initially received steroid injections for pain and continue to have persistent baseline pain.

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Localized spinal or paraspinal infection

During this outbreak, some patients developed spinal or paraspinal infections at the injection site, such as epidural abscess or arachnoiditis. These conditions can occur on their own or in addition to meningitis.

  • A spinal epidural abscess is characterized by inflammation and a collection of pus around the spine. Spinal epidural abscesses sometimes result in swelling in the affected area (e.g., near the site where contaminated steroid mediation was injected).
  • Common symptoms can include fever, headache, back pain, and neurological problems (e.g., weakness, unusual changes in sensation)
  • Arachnoiditis is a disorder caused by the inflammation of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surrounds and protects the nerves of the spinal cord. The condition can be caused by irritation from chemicals, infection, or direct injury to the spine.
  • Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, and a characteristic stinging and burning pain in the lower back or legs. Some people with arachnoiditis may have debilitating muscle cramps, twitches, or spasms. The condition may also affect the bladder, bowel, and sexual function. In severe cases, arachnoiditis may cause paralysis of the lower limbs.

If you got a spinal or paraspinal injection from one of the three recalled lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) and have continued, worsening, or new symptoms at or near the site of your injection, you should see your doctor for the possibility of a localized infection such as an epidural abscess. This includes patients who initially received steroid injections for pain and continue to have persistent baseline pain.

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Fungal Meningitis

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is swelling of the protective membranes, or meninges, covering the brain and spinal cord. The swelling is usually caused by an infection with a bacteria or virus, but meningitis can also be caused by a fungus. Meningitis caused by a fungus is called fungal meningitis. The severity of illness and the treatment for meningitis differ depending on the cause, so knowing the specific cause of meningitis is important.

What is fungal meningitis?

Fungal meningitis occurs when the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord are infected with a fungus. Fungal meningitis is rare and usually caused by the spread of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord.

Symptoms of fungal meningitis

During this outbreak, many patients with fungal meningitis had only a few mild symptoms. Most had headache, and some have had fever, nausea, and light sensitivity. Patients and clinicians need to remain vigilant for onset of symptoms because fungal infections can be slow to develop.
If you had a steroid injection since May 21, 2012, and have any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

  • New or worsening headache
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • New weakness or numbness in any part of your body
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased pain, redness or swelling at your injection site
Is fungal meningitis contagious?

No, fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person. The current outbreak is associated with contaminated medication that is injected into the body.

Is fungal meningitis common after spinal injections?

Spinal injections are generally very safe procedures, and complications are rare. Fungal meningitis is an extremely rare cause of meningitis overall, including after spinal injections. The type of epidural medication given to patients affected by this outbreak is not the same type of medication as that given to women during childbirth.

Is fungal meningitis common after spinal injections?

Spinal injections are generally very safe procedures, and complications are rare. Fungal meningitis is an extremely rare cause of meningitis overall, including after spinal injections. The type of epidural medication given to patients affected by this outbreak is not the same type of medication as that given to women during childbirth.

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Fungal Joint Infection

Symptoms of Joint Infections

If you were injected with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate recalled on September 26, remain vigilant for onset of symptoms because fungal infections can be slow to develop. See a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Increased pain
  • Redness, warmth, or swelling in the joint that received the injection or at the injection site

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About the Outbreak Investigation

How many cases have been reported?

Final case count for the outbreak can be found at Cases and Deaths with Fungal Infections Linked to Steroid Injections.

Is the source of the outbreak known?

Three lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA), an injectable steroid medication recalled on September 26, 2012, from the New England Compounding Center (NECC), have been linked to the outbreak. The type of spinal epidural medication given to patients affected by this outbreak is not the same type of medication as that given to women during childbirth.

Twenty-three states received the three lots of contaminated steroid medication from the New England Compounding Center (NECC). All clinics that received the contaminated recalled steroid medication are listed on the state facility page.

Where can I find additional information on this outbreak?

For complete information and updates on FDA's outbreak website, visit http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm322734.htm

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What Should Patients Know?

How do I know if the clinic I got my injection from used contaminated steroid medicine?

All clinics that received the three lots of contaminated steroid medication are listed on the Current State Facility page.

Are medications other than the three recalled lots of steroid medications from the New England Compounding Center (NECC) associated with infections?

CDC and FDA have identified bacteria and/or fungi in additional products from NECC. Although CDC has received reports of illness in patients who received these medications, including some patients who had evidence of meningeal inflammation, CDC and public health officials have no reports of laboratory-confirmed bacterial or fungal meningitis, spinal, or paraspinal infections caused by these products. The available epidemiologic and laboratory data do not support evidence of an outbreak of infections linked to usage of NECC products other than the contaminated steroid medications (methylprednisolone). [This information was accurate as of October 23, 2013]

If you have taken or used any medication from NECC and feel sick, you should seek medical attention. Any infections potentially related to NECC products should be reported to FDA Medwatch and to your state health department.

Information on this site is focused on the three lots of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) from NECC associated with the outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections. For information on other recalled medication from NECC, see Information about Additional Medical Products (non-MPA) From New England Compounding Center[may need to update hyperlink].

Why did some people who received an injection with one of the three lots of the contaminated steroid get sick and not others?

Available information suggests that it is likely that not everyone who got an injection will get sick. Why one person may get sick and another person may not is unknown. However, underlying health conditions, circumstances surrounding the patient's injection, and level of contamination of the particular vial of medication used in the injection may influence if a person gets sick.

Patients and clinicians need to remain vigilant for onset of symptoms because fungal infections can be slow to develop. The majority of infections reported to CDC were patients with localized spinal and paraspinal infections (e.g., epidural abscess). Patients and physicians need to continue to closely watch for symptoms for several months following the injection. Signs and symptoms of a localized infection may be difficult to distinguish from a patient's baseline pain.

Contact your physician if you have received a spinal or paraspinal injection with the implicated medicine and have continued, worsening, or new symptoms at or near the site of your injection. This includes patients who initially received steroid injections for pain and continue to have persistent baseline pain.

Are other injectable medications, like vaccines, safe?

The fungal meningitis outbreak from contaminated steroid medication is completely unrelated to vaccines. Vaccines available in the United States are held to the highest quality standards by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and each batch (called "lot") of vaccine must be approved by FDA before it is available for the public. FDA also inspects U.S. vaccine manufacturing facilities to ensure that the highest standards are being met and that no contamination of vaccines occurs. Vaccines have had an excellent safety record with hundreds of millions of people in the United States getting them safely for many years.
CDC and FDA work closely to monitor the safety of vaccines. See CDC's Vaccine Safety site for more information. Vaccine schedules can be found on CDC's Immunization Schedules site.

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What If I Have Been Given a Steroid Injection?

I was contacted because I received a spinal injection with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate recalled on September 26, but I feel fine. Do I still need to be concerned?

You should watch for onset of symptoms because fungal infections can be slow to develop. The majority of infections reported to CDC were patients with localized spinal and paraspinal infections (e.g., epidural abscess). Patients and physicians need to continue to closely watch for symptoms for several months following the injection. Signs and symptoms of a localized infection may be difficult to distinguish from a patient’s baseline pain.

Contact your physician if you have received a spinal or paraspinal injection with the implicated product and have continued, worsening, or new symptoms at or near the site of your injection. This includes patients who initially received steroid injections for pain and continue to have persistent baseline pain

If I received a spinal injection with a contaminated steroid but I feel fine, do I need to begin antifungal treatment?

CDC does not recommend antifungal treatment for people who received a contaminated steroid injection, but who do not have any symptoms and do not have laboratory evidence of infection. You should talk to your doctor if you have concerns or are experiencing pain.

I was contacted because I received a joint injection with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate recalled on September 26, but I feel fine. Do I still need to be concerned?

Joint infections from fungus may take longer to develop than fungal meningitis. Patients who have had steroid medications injected in joints only are not at risk for fungal meningitis but could be at risk for joint infection. If you were injected with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate recalled on September 26, remain vigilant for onset of symptoms and remember that fungal infections can be slow to develop. See a doctor if you have symptoms.

I have not been contacted by my doctor and my facility is not on the list, but I have symptoms. What do I do?

If you feel ill, you should contact your doctor.

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Additional Resources

 
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