Effects from tainted steroid injection still being felt

New cases continue to arise in the tainted steroid injection fungal meningitis outbreak, even in patients already treated and sent home, despite the end of the 42-day risk period for contracting the disease.

As many as 14,000 people received tainted injections produced at the Framingham, Mass.-based New England Compounding Center. The 42-day risk period ended on November 7, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported five new meningitis cases, 39 new spinal infections and three new joint infections in the past week, ABC News reports.

“Here’s the perplexing issue,” Tom Chiller, the deputy chief of the CDC’s mycotic diseases branch, said, ABC News reports. “Why are we getting people that early on who are presenting with rip-roaring meningitis, but now, they’re presenting 100 days later with focal infections only? Why the difference? We don’t know.”

In total, 590 people in 19 states became ill with meningitis or other infections as a result of the tainted products. On November 26, the CDC started dividing the cases into meningitis cases and spinal infections.

In one instance, Harold Rye, a retired mechanic, spent 18 days in a hospital to treat fungal meningitis from the tainted steroid product. Two weeks after his discharge, he was readmitted for a secondary spinal infection on his backbone that went down to his hips. He spent another 25 days in the hospital and, after his discharge on December 5, requires intravenous medication or pills for the next three to six months.

The longest fungal infection period the CDC recorded to date was 120 days, though the longest incubation period from a prior outbreak of fungal meningitis was 152 days.

“We hope that’s the exception, not the rule,” Chiller said, according to ABC News. “We hope we’re nearing the end of this.”

One person died as a result of the tainted steroid in the past week, bringing the overall death toll to 37, ABC News reports.

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