ALTOONA - The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported Monday the first case of fungal meningitis, linked to the national outbreak from contaminated medication. The patient, treated at Allegheny Pain Management, in Altoona, is currently hospitalized and receiving treatment, state officials said.
The patient received an epidural steroid injection in July from Allegheny Pain Management, one of the two facilities in Pennsylvania that received shipments of contaminated steroid medication from the New England Compounding Center, according to a release from the Pa. Department of Health. No illnesses have been reported from the other facility, South Hills Pain Clinic, in Allegheny County, the release states.
"We have been working directly with the clinics to ensure that patients who received these injections are monitored and receive any necessary follow-up," said Acting Secretary of Health Michael Wolf. "There are no other medical facilities in Pennsylvania that received or used the contaminated medication."
Shawn Lockhart looks at the meningitis-causing fungus Exserohilum rostratum at the mycotic lab Friday at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The staff and technicians have been working around the clock to confirm cases and inform the public regarding the multi-state meningitis outbreak that has resulted in 14 deaths. The fungal outbreak is believed to have started at New England Compounding Center where a steroid injection shipment was contaminated with the fungus.
A press release from New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. states that the potentially contaminated shots were available beginning May 21 and were recalled on Sept. 26, followed with an expanded recall of all products compounded and distributed at the New England Compounding Center on Oct. 6.
The outbreak of fungal meningitis has been linked to three separate lots of injectable, preservative-free methylprednisolone, used for treatment of chronic pain, according to the Pa. Department of Health. The medicinal steroid is usually injected into an area around the spinal cord, joints or muscles.
Fungal meningitis causes an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, possibly resulting in death. According to the Center for Disease Control, as of Oct. 15, there have been 214 reported cases of fungal meningitis linked to the outbreak in the U.S. with 15 cases resulting in death.
Over the term of the outbreak, symptoms have been reported as appearing one to four weeks after receiving a contaminated injection. Symptoms include: new or worsening headache, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, new weakness or numbness in any part of the body, slurred speech and increased pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, according to the CDC website.
Fungal meningitis is not transmitted from person to person and there is no cause for concern to anyone who did not receive an injection of the medication, state officials said. All patients who may have received contaminated injections are being contacted to identify any possible illness and assure they receive appropriate follow-up, officials said.