CDC issues update on fungal meningitis outbreak

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an update on Thursday about the fungal meningitis outbreak related to a contaminated steroid that caused 39 deaths since early October.

The Health Alert Network notice said that the contaminated methylprednisolone acetate from the Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center may also be causing unrecognized, localized spinal or paraspinal infections. The CDC is re-emphasizing that recommended clinicians assertively manage and follow up with patients with new or worsening symptoms.

Recent findings by the CDC and state partners based on new preliminary data found that more than 50 percent of patients with no previous evidence of infection with new or worsening symptoms had a localized spinal or paraspinal infection. Such infections can include vertebral osteomyelitis, discitis, arachnoiditis, phlegmon and epidural abscess.

The CDC also recommends that clinicians consider obtaining an MRI for patients with persistent but baseline symptoms. The notice said that infections can be difficult to distinguish from the baseline chronic pain experienced by a patient.

As of Tuesday, the CDC reported a total of 620 cases of fungal meningitis and other infections in 19 states. Eighty of the cases were reported between December 3 and Monday. Most of the new cases reported were spinal or paraspinal infections.