Steroid-related meningitis cases rise to 47 - CBS46 News

Steroid-related meningitis cases rise to 47

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA/AP) -

Health officials say the number of people sickened by a deadly meningitis outbreak has risen again. There are now 47 cases in seven states.

The number of deaths - five - has remained the same.

Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana had previously reported cases. On Friday, Michigan joined the list, with four cases.

The outbreak of fungal meningitis has been tied to steroid shots used to treat back pain. The steroid was custom-made by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. Health inspectors found fungus in at least one sealed vial of the steroid at the company's facility.

"Our main concern is to be certain that we're doing everything possible to identify individuals who may show signs of disease and be sure they get adequate treatment," Director of Georgia's Division of Health Protection Dr. Patrick O'Neal said. 

The Georgia Department of Public Health is the latest department on alert after the outbreak. One hundred sixty of the 189 patients who received what may be a potentially contaminated injection have been notified. So far no one has contracted the disease.

"Individuals may start off with a headache, stiff neck or fever and they may not think it's extremely severe, but it can get worse as time goes on," state epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek said. 

The epidural steroid injections were given to patients at the Forsyth Street Ambulatory Surgery Center in Macon, beginning at the start of summer.

"Although this is a rare infection and although it can be clinically severe, the risk is very targeted, it's very limited. I think there is no cause for alarm outside of the individuals that may have been exposed," Drenzek said.

The company has recalled the steroid which was sent to clinics in 23 states. The government urged doctors not to use any of the company's products.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press.  All rights reserved.

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