By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — The numbers of illnesses and deaths linked to a steroid injected for back pain have been increasing in a multi-state outbreak of meningitis, but officials at the local Bassett Healthcare Network said Wednesday they don’t believe their patients are at risk.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there have been 137 illnesses and 12 deaths linked to steroid shots and fungal meningitis since the first case was reported Tennessee on Sept. 21.
The steroid linked to the outbreak of meningitis isn’t used in the Bassett network, the health care provider said Wednesday.
Bassett Medical Center has received “a high volume’’ of calls from patients concerned about the outbreak, according to a statement provided by Bassett spokeswoman Karen Huxtable. The outbreak involves a fungal meningitis, which isn’t contagious, Bassett said.
The steroid, along with other medications, made by New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Framingham, Mass., has been recalled, and federal and state authorities continue investigating the outbreak.
No cases have been reported in New York.
The CDC said the 10 states reporting cases are Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.
The CDC was notified Sept. 21 by the Tennessee Department of Health of a patient with the onset of meningitis about 19 days after an epidural steroid injection. As of Oct. 4, 35 cases in six states had been identified, including five deaths.
Fungal meningitis is rare and usually the result of the spread of a fungus through blood to the spinal cord, the CDC website said.
Though anyone can get fungal meningitis, people with weak immune systems are at higher risk.
The CDC last week said the New York tainted shipments went to Dr. Sunil Butani in Mineola, Obosa Medical Services in Mount Vernon and Rochester Brain and Spine in Rochester.
On Tuesday, state Department of Health officials said 425 people in New York of 13,000 nationwide received steroid shots suspected in the outbreak, the Associated Press reported.
Bassett doesn’t stock the steroid product linked to the outbreak, said the statement, which applies to all hospitals in the network — Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, Cobleskill Regional Hospital, Little Falls Hospital, O’Connor Hospital in Delhi and Tri-Town Regional Hospital in Sidney.
However, Bassett hospitals have purchased other medical products from the company, the statement said. As a precaution, all products connected to the company have been removed from pharmacy shelves at Bassett and no others from the firm are being purchased.
Bassett officials also said the steroid injections being discussed in this outbreak aren’t the same as the epidurals given to women for childbirth or C-sections.
The Federal Drug Administration is working with the CDC and state authorities to investigate the outbreak.
The outbreak been associated with preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (80mg/ml), an injectable steroid produced and distributed by NECC, an FDA statement said.
CDC’s interim data show that all infected patients received an injection with this product.
NECC, following an FDA recommendation, announced a voluntary recall Saturday of all its products from its facility in Framingham.
As of Oct. 3, NECC had voluntarily shut down.
The potentially contaminated medication was from three lots from NECC and was given starting May 21, the CDC said.