Tennessee patient treated in 2012 meningitis outbreak has relapse


By Timothy Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct 5 (Reuters) - A patient treated duringthe deadly meningitis outbreak in the United States last yearthat was tied to contaminated steroid injections is back in thehospital for a recurrence of the infection, a Nashville hospitalsaid on Saturday.

"The patient was admitted to Saint Thomas West Hospital onOctober 3 and is now receiving appropriate treatment at thehospital," hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Climer said.

Other patients treated during the deadly 2012 outbreak offungal meningitis were being contacted to determine whether theytoo were showing symptoms of relapse, Climer said in astatement. Those signs include persistent and severe headache,worsening back pain and unexplained fever, the hospital said.

People who suffered illness in the outbreak that was firstdetected in Nashville in September 2012 were jolted by the phonecalls from the hospital, said Nashville attorney Mark Chalos,who represents 10 families, including some whose relatives died.

"It's a very scary situation and my clients are very worriedabout their health," Chalos told Reuters. "They have struggledfor more than a year with a severe illness and it looks likethere's no end in sight to their suffering."

Tennessee was the second hardest-hit state, behind Michigan,in the 2012 outbreak, which killed dozens of people and made 750people ill nationwide, according to the Centers for DiseaseControl. The outbreak was linked to the New England CompoundingCenter in Massachusetts and injections of a fungus-taintedsteroid typically used to ease back pain.

Some 2,000 vials of the drug went to Nashville's St. ThomasOutpatient Neurosurgery Center, which received more than anyother facility in the nation.

The CDC could not be reached for additional informationabout the recurrences of infection because of the U.S. federalgovernment shutdown. Calls to CDC phones were answered byrecordings about furloughed workers.

The outbreak of fungal meningitis was first detected atNashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where a doctortraced a dying patient's unusual symptoms to an epidural steroidinjection at St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center.

The outbreak raised awareness about potential problems atcompounding pharmacies and the U.S. House of Representativeslast month passed legislation that would give the Food and DrugAdministration more authority to regulate companies thatcompound sterile drugs and ship them across state lines.

The Drug Quality and Security Act, which now goes to theSenate for a vote, would create national standards to trackpharmaceuticals through the distribution chain to bar fakemedication.

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