By AMANDA GRAY
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Two people are presumed dead from fungal meningitis after receiving injections at the Elkhart Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center (OSMC), according to Elkhart County Health Officer Dan Nafziger.
Nafziger said 20 people have been diagnosed with fungal meningitis after receiving steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center, a Massachusetts’ company now blamed for more than 200 illnesses and deaths in 23 states.
“This is quite distinctive,” Nafziger said. “We’ve had close to 10 percent of the national cases come from Elkhart County... Unfortunately, I expect more to appear as time goes on.”
Nafziger said around 400 tainted injections were given at the OSMC to more than 300 patients. He said staff at OSMC have contacted every patient who received the injections. Nafziger said he believes the South Bend Clinic also had a few tainted injections.
“This is not spread person to person, like other forms of meningitis,” Nafziger said. “It can be a severe kind of infection.”
Nafziger said the fungal meningitis is too new to know how deadly it will be, but it is now already seemingly more deadly than viral meningitis. Those who received injections were told to keep an eye out for symptoms, which include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity and altered mental status, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nafziger said other people have also had strokes because of the infection.
“People who have been called by the clinic have been told that if they have symptoms to come in for a spinal tap or lumbar puncture,” he said.
Treatments have changed; Nafziger said Monday that the CDC recently changed the recommended treatment for the fungal infection. Doctors were initially treating the fungal meningitis patients with two anti-fungal medications — now, it’s recommended to use just one.
OSMC responded to the outbreak through their website, www.osmc-online.com. The statement reiterates the symptoms and calls for patients to receive a screening if they think they may be ill.
“OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center is one of six facilities in the state of Indiana to receive the recalled steroid medication from New England Compounding Company that is used in the treatment of chronic back pain through steroid injections,” the website states. “It has been shown that this contaminated medication may cause fungal meningitis. OSMC is no longer using any product from New England Compounding Company.”
With all of the stress of the situation, Nafziger said he appreciated the cool heads of all of those involved.
“I’ve been very appreciative about how the local health care providers have pulled together to support the patients, and for the patients and their families for their patience in this difficult time,” he said.