A rare form of meningitis has been linked to a fungus in a steroid injection and has directly affected persons in our area. Two clinics–one in Roanoke and a second in Christiansburg—have been linked to a tainted steroid allotment from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, New River Valley Surgery Center, Lamb Drive in Christiansburg, has identified 27 patients that received the injection. Insight Imaging in Roanoke has identified as many as 600 patients that received it.
In a statement, New River Valley Surgery Center said they have been working closely with the Virginia Department of Health since they were informed that a small batch of medication they received could be linked to meningitis cases. “The medication was given to 27 patients. All of the patients have been contacted and are receiving treatment if necessary. Out of respect for their privacy, we cannot provide any additional patient information. We are no longer using any products from the pharmacy that produced the medication in question. The health and safety of our patients is our top priority and we will continue to work with VDH and our local hospitals to ensure that they receive the best care and treatment possible. For additional information, please contact the Virginia Department of Health.”
The aspergillus meningitis outbreak is connected, according to health officials, to spinal steroid injections, a common treatment for back pain. A sealed vial of the steroid, called methylprednisolone acetate, was found to contain fungus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The compounding center has recalled three lots of the shots and shut down operations at its manufacturing facility. The Drug Administration has said roughly 75 clinics in 23 states received the recalled drug.
The Virginia Health Department said the type of meningitis associated with the tainted steroid is considered super rare and is very dangerous. Early symptoms include a headache, fever, dizziness, nausea and slurred speech. It is not transmitted from person to person, and only those that received the injection are considered at risk.
Officials at the Virginia Department of Health held a statewide conference call on Friday, emphasizing the fact that this type of meningitis is not contagious.
Dr. David Trump, state epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health, said all affected clinics have contacted patients that received the shots. Some received the shot as far back as July and others as recent as this week.
Area hospitals are testing a large number of individuals for the strain.
Eric Earnhart, spokesman for Carilion Clinic, confirmed three people have been admitted to New River Valley Medical Center in Radford with meningitis. At Roanoke Memorial, 34 have been tested and 10 admitted to the hospital. LewisGale-Montgomery numbers have not been released.
Early estimates are that thousands of people that received steroid injections over the past few months in 23 states could be at risk. Two people have reportedly died in southwest Virginia, but only one death has been confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health. Officials say a total of six people, so far, have died as the result of the tainted shot.
One Nashville area victim of the disease has local ties. Diana Bergeson Reed, 56, died Wednesday after suffering a stroke as a result of a fungal meningitis infection. Reed received steroid shots from a Nashville health facility in treatment of a back injury. She is a 1974 graduate of Christiansburg High School. Her husband, Wayne Reed, is also a graduate of CHS.
Fungal meningitis cases have been identified in Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Florida, North Carolina and Indiana, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.