October 16, 2012 — The Gainesville Sun reports that a woman from Marion County, Florida has filed a lawsuit in a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis. The woman, Vlinda York, alleges that she fell ill with meningitis after being injected with a tainted epidural steroid shot in August. The steroid shot, methylprednisolone acetate, was recalled by New England Compounding Center on September 26. York is still in the hospital and she is seeking more than $15,000 in damages. Her Florida meningitis lawsuit was filed yesterday in Ocala, Florida.
Dozens of state and federal health agencies are scrambling to address the outbreak, which has been linked to at least 215 illnesses and 15 deaths in 15 states. Officials have successfully contacted most of the 14,000 people who were exposed to epidural steroid injections. However, several illnesses have been linked to other recalled medications from New England Compounding Center, which could dramatically expand the number of exposed individuals nationwide.
In Florida, at least 10 people have been diagnosed with fungal meningitis linked to the steroid shots, including 2 deaths. At least 130 people have visited Marion County hospitals with symptoms of fungal meningitis. As many as 775 people were injected with potentially contaminated steroid shots at 8 clinics in Florida.
Nearly all of the people who got sick are located in Marion County. The three clinics located in Marion County that received the steroid shots are Florida Pain Clinic, the Surgery Center of Ocala, and the Marion Pain Management Center.
Outbreaks of fungal meningitis are extremely rare, which is one reason why doctors and epidemiologists have struggled to address the outbreak. The CDC does not recommend prophylactic treatment with anti-fungal medications, because the medications have severe side effects. It can be difficult to know whether a patient’s kidney failure or liver disease are due to fungal meningitis or the anti-fungal treatment. Long-term treatment with the drugs can be very hard on a patient’s body, and fungal meningitis often requires several months of treatment.
Without treatment, however, a patient is likely to succumb to the disease. Meningitis is an infection in the central nervous system. Complications include paralysis, stroke, nerve damage, brain damage, and death.
Experts also do not know the incubation period for the disease. Fungal meningitis usually appears within 1-4 weeks after the fungal spores enter the body. However, longer and shorter time periods have been reported. Some experts recommend that patients remain vigilant for several months after being injected with a potentially tainted medication.
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