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US outbreak of fungal meningitis triggers debate on pharmaceutical compounding

Wednesday, October 10th 2012 - 08:40 UTC
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US Congress wants tighter regulations US Congress wants tighter regulations

A rare US outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections has claimed four more lives with Florida the latest state to report at least one death linked to the illness in a widening health scare, authorities said on Tuesday.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that two more people had died from meningitis in Tennessee, and one more in Michigan after receiving steroid injections.

Officials in Florida meanwhile said late Tuesday that a 70-year-old man died in July as a result of the same outbreak, the first in that state, bringing the number of deaths nationwide to 12.

The widening outbreak has alarmed US health officials and focused attention on regulation of pharmaceutical compounding companies such as the one that produced the drugs, the New England Compounding Centre Inc in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Some leading Democratic members of Congress proposed tighter regulation on compounding companies on Tuesday.

In Michigan and Tennessee, the two states hit hardest by the outbreak, family and friends mourned the loss of victims.

George Cary attended a memorial on Tuesday for his British-born wife of 35 years, Lilian, who died of meningitis on Sept. 30 several weeks after receiving an injection for back pain. Standing with his two daughters at their house in Howell, Michigan, Cary said that he now would await the results of a test for meningitis after he also received an injection.

“I'm fine right now. I'm waiting to see if anything develops,” Cary said.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, fever and nausea. Fungal meningitis, unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, is not contagious.

One of the dead in Tennessee, 80-year-old Reba Temple, was a former health director for rural Hickman County.

“She was a wonderful, wonderful lady,” said County Trustee Cheryl Chessor, who attended the same church as Temple, Centerville Church of Christ.

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