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NECC News: Age is only a number in fungal meningitis lawsuits

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In fungal meningitis outbreak news, the CDC revised its numbers to 297 cases, 23 deaths, and three knee, hip, shoulder, or elbow joint infections on Monday. Though the Chattanooga Times Free Press has reported that only three Tennessee facilities received shipments of NECC’s contaminated epidural steroid, the state has suffered the most casualties with 69 cases and nine deaths, per the latest CDC data. Now, at least one doctor is wondering why so many patients are getting the shots.

Tennessee Medical Association president-elect Chris Young, MD, said that the NECC fungal meningitis outbreak “serves as a reminder of how many spinal injections are given in state clinics, many without a great deal of oversight,” according to the Times Free Press. The doctor reportedly added that “Tennessee health care providers administer some of the highest numbers of spinal injections in the nation.”

Back when the fungal meningitis outbreak began, Dr. Benjamin Park, chief epidemiologist for the CDC’s mycotic diseases branch, told participants of a CDC- and FDA-hosted teleconference that patients who’ve become infected with the disease have been older.

“[T]he patients who died also tend to be a little bit older,” he said on October 4.

Two weeks later, Tennessee Department of Health Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, reportedly said that age hasn’t been as much a factor as how much fungus contaminated the vial from which an epidural steroid patient was injected.

Those named in fungal meningitis lawsuits have ranged in age and include:

  • 87-year-old Godwin Mitchell of Florida, whose granddaughter, Keira, filed a lawsuit on his behalf;
  • 71-year-old Janet Russell of Tennessee;
  • 61-year-old Lyn Laperriere of Michigan;
  • 55-year-old Thomas Warren Rybinski, whose widow, Colette, filed a lawsuit against NECC;
  • 47-year-old Natalie Copass of Indiana; and
  • 46-year-old Brenda Bansale of Michigan.

Michigan has reported that fungal meningitis cases have ranged in age from 38 to 89, according to AnnArbor.com. Last week, Ohio’s Portsmouth Daily Times reported the following fungal meningitis cases:

  • A 65-year-old male in Hamilton County;
  • A 55-year-old female in Marion County;
  • A 50-year-old female in Morrow County;
  • A 47-year-old female in Marion County;
  • A 45-year-old male in Marion County;
  • A 40-year-old female in Crawford County; and
  • A 39-year-old female in Morrow County.

Last Friday, the CDC reported that, of the preliminary data it had on 70 patients, the age of a fungal meningitis patient has ranged from 23 to 91 years, and the median age has been 68.

Regardless of age, doctors stress that early diagnosis may determine a patient’s outcome.

“If treatment is given early, it is very effective,” said Dr. Reagan. “If it is given late, it is not very effective.”

According to Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch, “The fungi become harder to kill once they have established themselves in the body.”

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Information re: NECC Investigation Released, Lot 6 Blamed for Fungal Meningitis Cases in Tennessee

NECC News: FDA Letter to NECC May Answer Senators' and Consumers' Questions re: Meningitis Outbreak

NECC News: Ohio Clinics from Akron to Zanesville that Received NECC Drugs May-October 2012

NECC News: Fungal Meningitis Lawsuits Filed in Minnesota, Michigan, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia (updated October 17)

NECC News: NECC Cuts Jobs, FDA Investigates More Products

NECC News: Two More Injections Possibly Linked to Fungal Meningitis Outbreak per FDA

House of Representatives Wants to Speak with NECC and Woman Files First Meningitis Lawsuit

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What Epidural Steroid Patients Need to Know about the NECC Fungal Meningitis Outbreak