Tenn. death toll from tainted medicine rises to 12 - WKRN News 2

Tenn. death toll from tainted medicine rises to 12

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

The number of fungal meningitis cases and deaths is up in Tennessee, according to a release Friday from the Tennessee Department of Health.

The release stated, "As of 11 a.m. Central time November 2, 2012, the Tennessee Department of Health is aware of 78 patients with meningitis, epidural abscess or posterior stroke associated with epidural steroid injections or steroid injections in a major joint using products from New England Compounding Center. Of those cases, 12 have resulted in death of the patients."

Tennessee has been the hardest hit by the outbreak.

"Tennessee was the place where we first identified that there was an issue," said the department's Chief Medical Officer David Reagan. "We've had the longest to try to get our case finding and get people into treatment."

An estimated 1,009 people were exposed to contaminated steroid injections between June and September of this year.

Products from the New England Compounding Center (NECC) were pulled off the shelves and patients were notified by October.

Using data from Tennessee and other states, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated most patients, if infected, would experience symptoms within 42 days from the time of injection.  Tennessee is now nearing the end of that window.

"We still have a few people in that [window], probably less than 50 at this point and time," Reagan said, "By November 8, they'll all be out of that window."

That so-called window won't close completely on November 8.

"That doesn't mean there won't be any persons identified with infection after that, but we believe by that point 99% of risk will be gone for everyone who was exposed in Tennessee," said Reagan.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious but it is slow progressing, and Reagan told Nashville's News 2 the one percent still at risk should continue to be aware of symptoms and get treatment immediately.

"It's the folks where treatment is delayed that there has been more morbidity and mortality," he said.

According to the CDC, there are 395 cases and 29 deaths in 19 states related to the fungal meningitis outbreak.

All products from New England Compounding Center (NECC) and Ameridose in the northeast have been recalled. The FDA, CDC, and local and state health departments continue to investigate.

Anyone with questions about the outbreak is encouraged to call Tennessee Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

Click here for more information about the current status of the outbreak, or visit the CDC's  Web site.

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