Grand Forks providers not customers of lab linked to meningitis outbreakPatients who've received injections to relieve back pain at Altru Health System are not at any risk of getting meningitis from steroids used in the injections, said Dr. Eric Lunn, chief medical executive at Altru Heath System in Grand Forks.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Area back pain patients frightened by a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak that’s spreading nationally can rest easy.
Altru Health System in Grand Forks does not receive medication for steroid injections used to relieve back pain from the Massachusetts company that’s been linked to the cases, said Dr. Eric Lunn, chief medical executive at Altru Health System.
“Altru patients are not at any risk of getting meningitis from steroids,” he said.
Patients of Sanford Health also need not worry.
“Sanford Health does not purchase any medications from the company where the contaminated product causing these infections originated,” said Dr. Augusto Alonto, infectious disease specialist, in a statement Monday.
“Sanford patients who have had injections of steroids for back pain are not at risk of this infection.”
A total of 105 cases in nine states, including Minnesota, have been reported, the Centers for Disease Control said Monday. Eight people have died, none in Minnesota.
The latest fatality was in Tennessee which has been the hardest-hit state with 32 cases.
In addition to Minnesota and Tennessee, other states that have reported cases are Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio.
In Minnesota, three women have been identified with fungal meningitis. The latest case is, like the first two, a woman in her 40s, state Health Department spokesman Buddy Ferguson said Sunday.
She is hospitalized and is being treated with antibiotic and antifungal drugs, Ferguson said. He did not know if the other two women still were hospitalized.
In all three cases, the women received injectable steroids that came from a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.
Another woman, Melissa Stevens, 39, of Maple Grove, who was being tested Monday for the fungal meningitis, says she’s worried that her frequent head and neck pain mean she has the disease. She doesn’t know when she’ll get the results.
She was injected in August with a steroid product linked to the outbreak.
Stevens, a weight-loss coach and fitness instructor, has suffered frequent headaches and neck pain since she was in a car accident about five years ago. She said she knows those can also be symptoms of meningitis.
Minnesota health officials have been contacting people who might have been injected with the steroid.
State officials have said they believe about 950 Minnesota patients were treated with the implicated steroid products.
The Minnesota health care providers known to have used the implicated drugs are Medical Advanced Pain Specialists in Edina, Fridley, Shakopee and Maple Grove, and the Minnesota Surgery Center in Edina and Maple Grove.
The steroid was contaminated with a fungus before it was sent out, Lunn said. Health professionals “have been injecting that fungus right into the patients.”
The New England Compounding Center, based in Framingham, Mass., which makes the steroid linked to the outbreak, has recalled all of its products.
FDA investigators reported finding “foreign matter” in an unopened vial of the substance at the company’s plant. Under the microscope that substance was found to be a fungus, and microbiological testing is now under way to determine the exact type, the CDC said.
The contaminated steroid was sent to clinics in 23 states. The government last week urged doctors not to use any of the company’s products.
The delay between the injection of the steroid and the appearance of symptoms has been between one and four weeks.
Some patients had symptoms that were “very mild in nature,” the CDC said.
Flooded with calls
Altru has been inundated with calls from worried patients who have received steroid shots for back pain at Altru, Lunn said on Monday.
Fungal meningitis is “very serious,” he said. “Life threatening.”
Dr. Vinita Parikh, interventional pain management specialist and anesthesiologist at Altru, administers steroid injections to patients.
She said most patients who’ve been affected by the outbreak received injections starting July 1.
All the cases reported in the outbreak are linked to the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, she said.
Symptoms of meningitis include stiff neck, headaches and fatigue, Parikh said.
Officials have emphasized that the condition is not contagious, unlike viral or bacterial meningitis.
Anyone who is concerned about the possibility of contracting fungal meningitis “needs to be evaluated quickly and needs to get treatment,” Parikh said.
For more information, call Altru’s Pain Management Clinic at 701-780-2464.
The Associated Press and Joyce Frieden, MedPage Today, contributed to this article. Call Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.