NASHVILLE, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Medical experts are investigating why two people died and nine others became ill from a rare form of meningitis at a Nashville hospital, an official said.
Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working closely with the Tennessee Department of Health and will visit Nashville's Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center, where the 11 patients were treated for infections, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Tuesday.
Meningitis is a potentially deadly inflammation of tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord, commonly caused by bacterial or viral infections. The investigation of the outbreak in the Nashville hospital centers on a fungal infection from a mold named Aspergillus, and how it penetrated sterility safeguards at the hospital to infect patients' brains, the newspaper said.
Each of the patients had lumbar epidural steroid injections, a pain treatment in which medication is injected into the lower spine. State Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner speculated Monday the injections could be the source of infections, although Lola Russell, a media officer of the CDC, said the procedure had not been definitely linked to the outbreak of infections.
"We are looking at a variety of medications and products," Russell said. "We don't have enough evidence to say what the cause or source of the outbreak is right now."
The 11 patients, who range in age from their 40s to their 80s, received the injections between July 30 and Sept. 20. Each of the 737 patients who received injections at the hospital during that period have been alerted, Dreyzehner said..
The hospital voluntarily closed the outpatient center Sept. 20, the newspaper said, adding that a group of the country's foremost disease specialists participated in a conference call Monday to discuss how best to deal with the outbreak.
The manufacturer of the steroid solution linked to the infections has voluntarily recalled the product, but CDC officials did not identify the company or the drug.