October 9, 2012 — St. Thomas Hospital is treating at least 25 people who were sickened with fungal meningitis after being injected with an epidural steroid at the St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center. The center has been closed since September 20. Experts are recommending that anyone who had an epidural steroid injection between May 21 and September 20, 2012, should contact the hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with the hospital, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Tennessee Department of Health to investigate the outbreak. The outbreak has been traced to the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, which has recalled all lots of the steroid injections and all other medications. The Center has closed and rescinded their pharmacy license.

Nationwide, at least 105 people have been sickened and eight people have died. Tennessee is the hardest-hit state, with 35 illnesses and 4 deaths. St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center reportedly received 2,000 vials of potentially contaminated steroid injections. The hospital is currently in the process of evaluating everyone who received one of the injections.

Officials at St. Thomas Hospital have made the following recommendations for people who received an epidural steroid injection recently:

“We want to make sure that you are not having any problems related to your procedure. If you had an epidural steroid injection at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center and are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please contact us immediately or come directly to the Saint Thomas Hospital Emergency Department.”

Fungal meningitis is not contagious. It occurs when fungal spores infect cerebrospinal fluid and cause inflammation of the meninges, which is the protective membrane around the brain and spinal cord. One patient tested positive for the Aspergillus fungus, which normally grows in leaves or grass. Symptoms of meningitis may be mild, and include worsening headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, confusion, neck stiffness, new weakness, and more. Some patients have suffered strokes as a complications of fungal meningitis.