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W.Va. official: Clinic received medication linked to meningitis

Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- A West Virginia clinic received a steroid medication suspected in an outbreak of a rare form of meningitis, the head of the state Bureau for Public Health said Thursday.

Dr. Marian Swinker didn't immediately identify the clinic and said her office's epidemiology staff is closely monitoring the situation with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The steroid injections are mostly used for back pain.

"We understand that CDC has contacted that clinic and that patients who may have received the medication in question will be contacted for follow-up," Swinker said.

West Virginia has no reported cases from the outbreak, Swinker said. So far, the outbreak has sickened at least 26 people in five other states, including four deaths. All received steroid injections, mostly for back pain.

"Our message to the public is that clinics have been notified and are in the process of contacting their patients," Swinker said. "If a patient hears from a clinic, they should follow the advice from the clinic physician about (the) next steps."

The Food and Drug Administration identified the maker of the steroid as New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Framingham, Mass. Last week, the company issued a recall of three lots of the steroid -- methylprednisolone acetate. In a statement, the company said it had voluntarily suspended operations and was working with regulators to identify the source of the infection.

Compounding pharmacies mix ingredients for customized medicines that generally aren't commercially available. They are regulated by states.

The type of meningitis is caused by a fungus often found in leaf mold and which health officials suspect may have been in the steroid.

Eighteen of the cases are in Tennessee. Three cases have been reported in Virginia, two in Maryland, two in Florida and one in North Carolina. Two of the deaths were in Tennessee, and Virginia and Maryland had one each, CDC officials said.

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