Questions remain about meningitis outbreak in Illinois

As the case count of recent meningitis deaths continues to rise throughout the nation, more patients in Illinois and throughout the U.S. are raising questions about the regulatory processes that failed to protect them from this devastating infection. This blog has already discussed the fungal contamination leading to illness from medication errors, but many questions remain about the reasons for the recent outbreak.

Medical professionals and epidemiologists are still attempting to establish a pattern for the outbreak. It is not clear why some people became sick from the shots of steroids near their spines, while others remained entirely healthy. Some possible explanations include patients’ existing health conditions and the process in which the steroids were injected by medical professionals.

State health officials throughout the nation say the fungus is an incredibly rare medical condition. Most physicians never see an infection from the fungus, and as a result few are prepared to treat the condition.

Newly released information shows that the infections were not consistent among the manufactured lots of the injections. Most of the patients who were infected with the fungus were receiving shots from a single production lot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other information indicates that medical professionals themselves might have been to blame for some of the infections. The injections are not supposed to pierce the dura, which is a membrane that covers the spinal cord and brain. If an injection permeates this membrane, the likelihood of meningitis would increase dramatically.

There are still no clear answers regarding what caused the injections to become contaminated and why some patients have experienced life-threatening symptoms from the injections while others have remained perfectly healthy. Those who have been harmed, though, may want to consider consulting an experienced medical malpractice attorney in order to learn more about protecting their rights after a medication error.

Source: The New York Times, “Steroid shot near spine gives illness an opening,” Denise Grady, Oct. 15, 2012

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