ATLANTA, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Health officials said Friday the number of meningitis cases grew to 185 in 12 states with 14 deaths, while a Minnesota woman filed one of the first lawsuits.
Jeff Montpetit said his client, Barbe Puro, of Savage, Minn., filed a lawsuit against the New England Compounding Center alleging the four steroid injections she received in mid-September caused her to suffer a dramatic rise in headaches and nausea, the Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis reported.
Montpetit said Puro was told by the Minnesota Health Department that there was a high probability that she was given the tainted steroid, although she hasn't been diagnosed with meningitis, the Star Tribune said.
The diagnosis of meningitis can only be made by a spinal puncture -- spinal tap -- in which a thin needle draws fluid surrounding the spinal cord and the brain. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta advised patients who have been injected with the steroid and physicians to closely watch for symptoms for several months following the injection.
"At this time, the CDC does not recommend performing lumbar puncture in exposed patients who are currently asymptomatic. These patients should be closely monitored for development of symptoms, with a low threshold for performing lumbar puncture should the patient become symptomatic," the CDC said in a statement. "The clinical investigation of patients associated with this cluster is ongoing, and this recommendation may change as new information becomes available."
The New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., shipped about 17,000 doses of the injectable steroid methylprednisolone acetate used to treat back and joint pain to 23 states.
CDC officials said they had contacted about 90 percent of the patients who were treated, accounting for 14,000 doses of the steroid.
The officials said all of the people reported with fungal meningitis had been treated with the steroid from the New England Compounding Center. Several of the patients also suffered strokes believed to have resulted from their infection, CDC officials said.
The source of the fungus found in about 50 vials of the steroid from the New England Compounding Center hasn't been identified, health officials said.
Most of the illnesses have been from spinal injections but the steroid was also used to treat joint pain and a knee infection has been reported, the CDC said.
The CDC said Tennessee was the first state to identify the fungal meningitis and has the most cases at 50 and six deaths, followed by 41 cases and three deaths in Michigan; 33 cases and one death in Virginia; 24 cases and one death in Indiana; 14 cases and one death in Maryland; nine cases and two deaths in Florida; three cases in Minnesota; three cases in Ohio; two cases in North Carolina; four cases in New Jersey; one case in Idaho and one case in Texas.
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