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3 women linked to meningitis outbreak

Published 12:51pm Monday, October 8, 2012

ST. PAUL — Minnesota health officials said they’ve confirmed three cases of a rare fungal meningitis linked to a steroid commonly used to ease back pain.

The latest case is like the first two: a woman in her 40s, state Health Department spokesman Buddy Ferguson said Sunday. In all three cases, the women received injectable steroids that came from a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.

Ferguson said the third woman is hospitalized and is being treated with antibiotic and antifungal drugs. He did not know if the other two women still were hospitalized.

There are now more than 90 confirmed cases in nine states, including Minnesota, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday. Seven people have died; none in Minnesota.

State officials have said they believe about 950 Minnesota patients were treated with the implicated steroid products. They hoped to finish contacting all of the patients by Sunday evening.

The Minnesota health care providers known to have used the implicated drugs are Medical Advanced Pain Specialists in Edina, Fridley, Shakopee and Maple Grove, and the Minnesota Surgery Center in Edina and Maple Grove.

The steroid linked to the outbreak has been recalled, and health officials have been scrambling to notify anyone who may have received an injection of it. The Massachusetts pharmacy has said it is cooperating with investigators.

It is not yet known exactly how many people in the U.S. may have been affected, though it could affect hundreds or even thousands of people who received the steroid injections for back pain from July to September.

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Fungal meningitis is not contagious as are its more common viral and bacterial counterparts.