Calls for oversight grow as meningitis scare widens
By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tennessee | Wed Oct 10, 2012 6:19pm EDT
(Reuters) – Pressure mounted for greater regulation of a little known corner of the pharmaceuticals industry in response to a meningitis scare that widened to 11 states on Wednesday with the first case confirmed in Idaho.
Since the September 25 recall of three lots of a steroid produced by a Massachusetts company, 138 people have contracted meningitis and 12 have died, according to the latest tally from the Centers of Disease Control and Idaho on Wednesday.
The Idaho case was the first discovered in the western United States. The hardest hit state is Tennessee with 44 people sickened with the rare disease.
The number of cases has grown rapidly as health practitioners contacted some 13,000 people around the country who received injections from a potentially tainted supply of steroid medication shipped to 23 states.
Congress came under pressure to close what critics see as a loophole in regulation that left the company linked to the tainted product largely exempt from federal regulation.
“We urge Congress to give FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) the authority it needs to assure these kinds of outbreaks do not happen again,” said an official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who declined to be identified because of ongoing investigations.
This followed leading U.S. House and Senate lawmakers from both parties asking federal health officials on Tuesday for briefings on the outbreak as a first step toward possible legislative action to strengthen federal drug safety regulations.
Some patients expressed anger that such a sensitive area as steroid medication was so lightly regulated.
George Cary, whose wife Lilian Cary is one of three people to die in Michigan, said on Tuesday that Americans have a strong belief in their medical and political system and the outbreak should be a wake-up call to the nation.
“We don’t have expectations of a faulty regulatory medical system that allows these types of mistakes to be made,” Cary told reporters on his front lawn after a memorial for his wife. “So perhaps the message is, wake up America.”
In five states – Tennessee, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida – the outbreak has claimed lives, with the latest victim a 70-year-old man in Florida.
As many as 13,000 people received the injections to relieve back pain and other complaints and are at risk of infection, the CDC said, although the number ultimately stricken is likely to be far fewer.
For the first time on Tuesday, Tennessee state health officials gave an estimate of the rate of infection among those patients who received injections from the recalled steroid supplies. Approximately 5 percent of patients treated with the suspect medication in Tennessee have contracted meningitis, said Dr. David Reagan, chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health.
“We expect that most people who were exposed to this will not develop a fungal infection,” Reagan said.
The rate of infection overall is not known.
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, fever and nausea. Fungal meningitis, unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, is not contagious.
The outbreak has highlighted a gap in regulation of so-called compounding pharmacies, which are facilities that take drug ingredients and package them into medications and dosages for specific clients.
The federal Food and Drug Administration regulates only the ingredients and their suppliers, not the compounders, which are subject to a patchwork of state oversight.
Some of the thousands of people exposed may have to wait anxiously for weeks because the incubation period of the disease is up to a month, health experts said.
In Tennessee cases, officials said they had found the average incubation period to be 16 days, but they caution that it could range from six to 42 days for their patients.
Tennessee authorities believe they could still see new cases into the early part of November, though that could change as more information is collected, officials said.
The potentially tainted steroid vials, which have been recalled, were shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states, the CDC has said.
Tennessee has been the hardest hit state, with six reported deaths and 44 cases of meningitis, followed by Michigan with three deaths and 28 cases, Virginia with one death and 27 cases and Maryland with one death and nine cases.
The other states with cases are Indiana (15), Florida (6), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1), New Jersey (2) and Idaho (1).
(Additional reporting by David Morgan, Susan Guyett and Meghana Keshavan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Claudia Parsons)
Affects of Meningitis
Most people who get meningitis and septicaemia survive, often without any after effects, but sometimes these diseases cause a range of disabilities and problems that can alter people’s lives.
We estimate that every day in the UK and Ireland two people will be left with life-altering after effects as severe as brain damage, deafness and multiple amputations.
After effects may be temporary or permanent, physical or emotional.
There are vaccines that provide excellent protection against some forms of meningitis and septicaemia,BUT they can’t prevent all strains of these diseases.
There is no single vaccine that can prevent all forms of meningitis and septicaemia. There is no vaccine against Group B meningococcal bacteria the cause of most bacterial cases in the UK and Ireland.
The MenC vaccine protects against Group C meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia and is routinely offered to babies in the UK and Ireland.
There are currently two pneumococcal vaccines - a 23-type ‘polysaccharide’ vaccine for people over the age of two and a newer 7-type ‘conjugate’ vaccine for children aged two months to five years.
A Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine was introduced in the UK and Ireland in 1992, and provides long-lasting immunity. Since its introduction, the incidence of disease cause by Hib has been reduced by over 90% in the UK and Ireland.
There are vaccines against other strains of meningitis and septicaemia available for travel.
Who’s at Risk
Anyone can get meningitis or septicaemia, but age is one of the main risk factors.
Babies are at higher risk of bacterial meningitis than any other age group.
Toddlers are also at increased risk of meningitis.
Teenagers and young adults are at risk mainly from meningococcal disease.
But it is important to know that you can get meningitis or septicaemia at any time of your life.
Types and Causes of Meningitis
Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses and occasionally is due to fungal infections, although almost any microbe can cause it.
While viral meningitis can be very unpleasant it is almost never life threatening and most people quickly make a full recovery.
Meningitis and septicaemia caused by bacteria are usually more serious than other forms. There are at least 50 kinds of bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia. Most cases in the UK and Ireland are caused by meningococcal bacteria.
The main types of bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia are:
What’s Meningitis and The Symptoms
What are meningitis and septicaemia?
Meningitis and septicaemia are deadly diseases that can kill in hours.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord.Septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease.
Meningitis and septicaemia can cause symptoms such as a severe headache, vomiting, high fever, stiff neck and sensitivity to light. Many people (but not all) also develop a distinctive skin rash.
Columbus Public Health Issues Warning After Man Dies Of Bacterial Meningitis
UPDATED: Friday September 7, 2012 8:59 PM
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Columbus Public Health officials issued a warning on Friday to anyone who came into contact with a man who died of bacterial meningitis.
According to health officials, Joe Christopher visited Columbus during Labor Day weekend and could have exposed others to the contagious infection.
Christopher, 29, publisher of CUE Magazine, visited several establishments in the Short North during his visit to central Ohio from the Pittsburgh area.
Bacterial meningitis can be spread by sharing drinks, food, cigarettes, by kissing and other intimate contact.
Symptoms of bacterial meningitis include sudden onset of fever, stiff neck, rash, vomiting, headache and fatigue.
Mysheika Williams Roberts with Columbus Public Health said that the illness can easily spread.
“We’re tasked with trying to find and identify individuals who had close contact with this person, so that they can be treated so they won’t get the infection themselves,” Williams Roberts said.
Williams Roberts said that her department has notified businesses in the Short North but said that Christopher’s death is no cause for others to panic.
“Individuals in the community who may have just been out partying in the Short North, but are not aware that they had close intimate contact with this individual, do not need to be concerned,” Williams Roberts said.
CPH officials asked anyone who believes they have symptoms to go to an emergency room.
Anyone who had close contact with Christopher but is not experiencing symptoms is asked to call 614-378-3454 to receive medication to prevent the illness.
Watch 10TV News and refresh 10TV.com for more information.
Tune in to Live With Soambitious on January 27, 2011 at 6pm est to listen to my live interview with Lynn Bozof of the Meningitis Foundation.
I am working on putting together an event in support of the Meningitis Foundation. I will be holding this event every year in November on or around the 10th. This event is in memory of my sister Linda J Eason and others who have been affected by this disease. I will keep you posted on this event as things happen. For more information on the Meningitis Foundation go towww.nmaus.org you can also follow them on twitter www.twitter.com/NMAtweets
In Loving Memory Of
Linda J Eason
Check out the Meningitis Foundation at http://www.nmaus.org you can also go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/soambitious to listen to my interview with Lynn Bozof of the Meningitis Foundation. Also, i’m in the process of putting together a benefit to raise awareness beginning next year in Nov. I will keep you posted.
Go to the Meningitis Foundation to find out more about the new Vaccine thats being offered to prevent this disease. http://www.nmaus.org
Like my Meningitis Awareness Page of Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Meningitis-Awareness/194934423855319
Meningitis Fact Sheet and Response Form
PARENTS AND STUDENTS – We’d Like You To Know About Meningitis
College students, particularly freshman living in residence halls, have an increased risk of contracting bacterial meningitis. Fortunately, this risk remains relatively low with 1.5 cases occurring per 100,000 students overall.
Recent studies show the rate increases to 3.24 cases per 100,000 students among freshman living in residence halls. Smoking, drinking alcohol and going out to bars are contributing factors.
Approximately 10% of the general population carry the meningococcal bacteria in their noses and throats in a harmless state. During an outbreak, that percentage may reach 95%, yet less than 1% of people exposed will actually develop meningitis. Most people have resistance to it, and persons over age 30 do not seem to be at risk. It is estimated that 15-20 college students die each year as a result of the infection.
Despite the slim chances of getting meningitis, we think you should know that a vaccine exists, which, along with abstaining from smoking, drinking alcohol, patronizing bars and sharing eating utensil, can further reduce the risk. Read on for more information.
Meningitis is an infection that progresses rapidly (usually within 24 hours) causing inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck and back, nausea, sensitivity to light, rash, and disorientation.
Bacteria are spread by close contact with oral or nasal secretions.
Treatment includes hospitalization, antibiotics and supportive therapy. It should be started immediately if meningitis is suspected.
There are several strains including A, B, C, Y and W-135. The only vaccine available is about 85% effective against 4 of these including strain C that is occurring more frequently in the college-aged group.
The vaccine Menomune is generally safe causing only localized reactions such as redness or soreness at the injection site.
The vaccine will not protect 100% of susceptible individuals or cover 100% of the strains of bacteria.
It takes up to 2 weeks to develop protection once immunized.
The cost ranges from $150 to $200 and the vaccine usually has to be special ordered by your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Insurances may cover the cost.
The Cazenovia College Health Service staff recommends that you discuss the benefits of the meningitis vaccine with your healthcare provider. If you decide to receive the vaccine, consider getting it before coming to campus for optimum protection.
Menactra and Menomune are available through the Health Office at our current cost which is $170-180.*
Other vaccines you should receive are detailed on the College’s Immunization Form. If you would like more information, please call us at 315.655.7122.
*Subject to change based on manufacturer price
IMPORTANT VACCINE REQUIREMENT!
ALL STUDENTS MUST SIGN AND RETURN A MENINGITIS RESPONSE FORM TO BE CLEARED TO ATTEND CLASSES.
Check out this video on Symptoms and Treatment of Meningitis http://video.about.com/infectiousdiseases/Meningitis.htm