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What Is Fungal Meningitis?

Yesterday we discussed the latest news related to the meningitis outbreak connected to a now-recalled spinal steroid injection. We noted that over a hundred people have already been infected with fungal meningitis as a result of the steroids, eight have died, and thousands may be at risk of exposure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that the contamination has been identified as originating at a pharmaceutical compounding center in New England. From there over 17,000 vials were sent to 23 states between July and September, including Illinois. A press release from the Illinois Department of Public Health noted that three APAC Centers for Pain Management facilities provided the affected spinal steroid shots to patients. They include: clinics at the Thorek Hospital Professional Building in Chicago, the Prairie Medical Building in Westchester, and the APAC Lincoln Park.

It is critical for those patients who may be affected to follow appropriate medical advice. In addition, it may be important to seek out legal help if you are affected. Serious injury, and even death, is possible with contamination, and so it is critical to act in a timely fashion to ensure accountability and redress.

Fungal Meningitis
Since learning about this situation, many have began investigating what exactly fungal meningitis is and how to recognize it. The CDC website on the illness provides some helpful context. According to the site, fungal meningitis is not contagious. Instead it is usually acquired by the spread of fungus internally, with the fungus having been introduced directly into the central nervous system.

Meningitis itself refers to an inflamed protective membrane covering the brain. With fungal meningitis, the inflammation is caused by a fungus–instead of a virus or bacteria. Fungal meningitis is very rare overall, as most cases of meningitis are connection to other pathogens.

In most cases, those with weakened immune systems are most at risk –like those with diabetes, cancer, or AIDS. Many seniors also have weakened immune systems, which may mean that the danger posed by the infection is higher.

The CDC lists a string of signs and symptoms which indicate that one might have the infection. These include stiff neck, nausea/vomiting, headache, fever, and a sensitivity to light. In addition, some reports have suggested that the meningitis may be connected to “stroke-like” symptoms, such as slurred speech or numbing to one side of the body.

As the string of recent deaths indicate, the meningitis is not something to be taken lightly–it can be quite serious. However, treatments are available to help fight the fungus. In most cases, the CDC notes, the treatment involves a prolonged series of antifungal medications. Those with weaker immune systems often need longer treatments in order to fully beat back the condition.

Right now the CDC is coordinating a multi-state investigation to get to the bottom of this specific problem. Recent releases from the Center note that some of the patients have had strokes connected to the meningitis–several of those proved fatal. In addition some of the infected patients were found with a fungus that is commonly found in the environment without causing meningitis.

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