Public Health Response May Have Prevented Hundreds of Illnesses, Deaths in Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 30, 2015

Contact: CDC Media Relations


Quick action by thousands of public health officials and clinicians may have averted more than 153 cases of meningitis or stroke and 124 deaths during the 2012-2013 fungal meningitis outbreak linked to methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) distributed by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the coordinated investigation by federal, state and local public health officials; speedy recall of the contaminated lots; prompt notification of the more than 13,500 patients who may have been exposed; and rapid dissemination of guidelines for diagnosis and treatment likely prevented many additional exposures, cases of illness and deaths.


CDC published the estimates in its Emerging Infectious Diseases journal today.


The article is available at


More than 750 people were sickened and 64 died after three lots of contaminated MPA were administered. The contamination led to one of the largest outbreaks of healthcare-associated infections and the largest outbreak of fungal meningitis recorded in the United States. However, in a new report, scientists estimate it could have been much worse. Prompt recall of the three contaminated lots meant that more than 3,100 additional injections of the affected MPA were not administered. CDC researchers believe that if those injections had occurred, more than 150 additional people could have become ill. Actions by CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and state and local public health partners likely resulted in patients being diagnosed earlier and at a less severe disease stage and allowed them to begin taking antifungal medication. In addition, without the public health investigation and response, more lots of contaminated MPA would likely have been produced, distributed and given to patients. Each additional lot could have led to 275 additional cases and 77 more deaths.


Page last reviewed: May 18, 2015