As of Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the current outbreak of fungal meningitis has affected 344 people in 18 states – including in Illinois – and has claimed the lives of a total of 25 individuals across the country.
But now federal officials have narrowed down the cause. The pandemic came as a result of a rare fungal form of meningitis that affected patients who were injected with methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid drug commonly used to treat back pain. Investigators toured the plant at the center of the ongoing outbreak and found foreign, “greenish-black” material in some vials of the injection suspected as the cause of the illnesses, reported MSNBC.
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 14,000 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.