It wasn’t supposed to be a lethal injection.
Nonetheless, as of this morning, the death toll for the current outbreak of meningitis has reached twelve, in addition to the 137 sickened from the epidemic apparently caused by contaminated steroid injections.
Meningitis is an illness that is marked by inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord; because of the proximity of the swelling in relation to the brain and spine, meningitis is considered to be a life-threatening medical emergency.
This particular strain of the disease, a rare fungal form of meningitis, affected patients who were injected with methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug commonly used to treat back pain. MSNBC reports that as many as 13,000 people may have gotten the shots, and, because symptoms of meningitis may take as long as a month to present, it is expected that both the list of infected individuals and the number of deaths related to the infection will continue to grow.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the form of fungal meningitis involved in this pandemic is a fungus usually found in leaf mold. Although it was transferred to the victims by way of steroid shot, it is fortunately not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.
The injection was manufactured by a specialty pharmacy, which voluntarily recalled numerous lots of the steroid. The company has since shut down operations and stopped distributing its products, health officials said. Nevertheless, shipments of the steroid were sent to 23 states before the deadly disease was discovered.
The New York Times reported that the corporation responsible for producing these injections is relatively small, with 49 employees. As a result, it was not subject to the same oversight from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as are larger drug manufacturers. Despite the fact that this may point to the need for more regulatory control, the company was still under a duty to to ensure the safety of that product before the merchandise is put on the market and sold to consumers. Although this is a basic tenet in Illinois personal injury law it is especially true for pharmaceutical companies whose products must undergo extensive testing before they are distributed to consumers. When a company makes a product that is defective or dangerous – or, as in this situation, contains a deadly contagion – and that product harms the person using that product, the company may be held legally responsible for the customer’s injuries.
Our Chicago personal injury lawyers represent victims across Illinois in matters against companies that have sold or manufactured unsafe products to consumers, and they are looking into this particular incidence of product liability.
If you or a loved one have had a steroid injection since July of this year, contact a doctor immediately. A physician will be able to diagnose whether you have been infected with meningitis. Symptoms of the disease include such things as headache, neck stiffness, fever, confusion, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light or loud noises. Long term prognosis for meningitis includes serious permanent consequences such as as deafness, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, deep brain stroke, and cognitive deficits, especially if not treated quickly.
Although not everyone who received the steroid injection will develop meningitis, it’s impossible to know how many will. For those affected by this outbreak, an attorney will be able to advise you of your rights under the law.