While we usually hear about bacterial or viral meningitis, the type of meningitis that has infected patients in Tennessee and North Carolina is caused by an extremely rare fungus.
"The fungus involved called asperigilus is all around us all the time," added Dr. Schaffner
Schaffner says, it’s actually a type of mold caused by decaying vegetation. For example falling leaves.
"Normal people can just throw it off day in and day out. However, every once in a while it can get into a patient who is already very, very sick," said Dr. Schaffner
The patients infected all had epidermal steroid injections in their back or lumbar area. Officials suspect the steroid medication was contaminated.
"It would appear that a what's called a compounding pharmacy, out of state created a lot of this steroid medication , some of which was supplied to a clinic right here in Nashville. The early investigation seems to indicate that a batch of this indictable steroid was contaminated coming out of the pharmacy." Dr. Schaffner.
Dr. Schaffner says the good news is that the CDC and FDA are able to track exactly how many doses of medication were distributed and to whom.
It’s believed that all of the patients have been identified; treating this rare outbreak will be a challenge.
"Fungal infections are by in large more difficult to treat than simple bacterial infections. They're less common. We have fewer anti-fungal agents to use to treat them. They often occur in very ill patients. So that makes it harder to treat," added Dr. Schaffner
Friday, October 5 2012, 02:44 PM CDT