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Fungal meningitis fatality toll rises to 19

Reuters (10/18, Morgan, Herbst-Bayliss) reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted an update Wednesday, indicating that four more deaths related to the fungal meningitis outbreak have been confirmed, bringing the total number of deaths to 19. The agency said the newly reported deaths occurred in Florida (one), Tennessee (two) and Virginia (one).

The AP (10/18, Stobbe) adds that the CDC update shows an additional 14 cases of meningitis have been confirmed, bringing the total to "247 people in 15 states." Most of the cases are fungal, non-contagious types of meningitis; thus far, only two "joint infections" related to the contaminated products produced by the New England Compounding Center, in Framingham, Massachusetts, have been confirmed.

According to the CNN (10/18, Proeller, Hanna, Caron) "This Just In" blog, Tennessee, the state with most cases of meningitis, now has 61; followed by "48 in Michigan, 37 in Virginia and 32 in Indiana. Cases also have been reported in Florida (13); Idaho (one); Illinois (one); Maryland (16); Minnesota (seven); New Hampshire (six); New Jersey (12); North Carolina (two); Ohio (nine); Pennsylvania (one); and Texas (one)."

Meanwhile, the CBS News (10/18, Jaslow) website reports that the Food and Drug Administration has "said three potentially contaminated lots," containing "over 17,000 vials" of the steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, caused the majority of the cases. In addition, FDA officials said one patient who may have meningitis received a "spine injection of another type of steroid, triamcinolone acetonide"; and a heart transplant patient developed "fungal infections" after being given "cardioplegia" during surgery. All three products were produced by the NECC.

The Los Angeles Times (10/18, Bardin, 629K) "Booster Shots" blog adds that the FDA has not yet made a conclusive determination on how the medications became contaminated.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel (10/18, Santich, 189K) notes that the FDA on Tuesday, "advised facilities that used any injectable drug from NECC manufactured after May 21 to warn affected patients, including those exposed to the drugs during eye surgery and open-heart surgery." The agency "said it made its decision out of 'an abundance of caution'" after its investigators discovered sterility issues at the compounder's facility.

The CDC update is also covered by the Minneapolis Star Tribune (10/18, Lerner, 328K), the NBC News (10/18, Fox) "Vitals" blog, the Boston Globe (10/18, Kowalczyk, 228K), the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (10/18, Brochu, 162K), the Daytona Beach (FL) News-Journal (10/18, Swisher, 65K), the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin (10/18, 43K), Cincinnati (10/18, Morse), HealthDay (10/18, Reinberg, Steele) and MedPage Today (10/18, Pittman).