Macon woman has fungal meningitis, health officials say

mstucka@macon.comOctober 23, 2012 

Health officials have confirmed a Macon woman is the state’s first case of fungal meningitis related to contaminated epidural steroidal injections.

State officials said the patient, a 66-year-old, is clinically stable and not hospitalized after she received a single injection from a suspected batch of contaminated drugs at the Forsyth Street Ambulatory Surgery Center in Macon.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Frank Kelly of the surgery center said he hadn’t seen any information that the case had been confirmed as meningitis. But the patient seems to be doing well and hadn’t been getting any treatment for meningitis without a diagnosis, he said.

“She has very few symptoms, if any, of meningitis. She has not had fever. She has not had back pain,” said Kelly, one of the surgery center’s founders.

The woman was one of 14 who received injections from the surgery center and reported having meningitis symptoms. Kelly said test results for the other 13 were negative.

Cherie Drenzek, the state epidemiologist, said the Macon woman’s case is the only one that’s confirmed or suspected in the state. Such meningitis generally has an incubation period of one to four weeks, and the last injection was administered Sept. 24, more than four weeks ago.

“We may be sort of on the downslope” with potential new cases, said Drenzek. The state plans to monitor patients exposed to the bad drugs for up to eight weeks.

Drenzek said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab did the testing that confirmed the case.

The patient received an injection of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate from one of three implicated lots prepared by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. That drug was recalled Sept. 26. Earlier this month, federal officials recalled more drugs from the compounding pharmacy, but those have not been linked to any infections, said Nancy Nydam, manager of media relations for the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Kelly said patients have been more apprehensive about getting injections for back pain.

“This is still a very valuable way of treating patients with back and leg pain,” he said. “I think naturally and understandably patients are somewhat hesitant to consider this as an option until everything has been thoroughly evaluated.”

Symptoms of fungal infection include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and altered mental status. Symptoms of other possible infections include fever, swelling, increasing pain, redness, warmth at the injection site, changes in vision and changes with the eye, chest pain or drainage from the surgical site.

The state says anyone who received medications from NECC since May 21 who is having symptoms should call a doctor immediately.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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