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A fairly standard steroid injection used to treat back pain has resulted in a meningitis outbreak in five states: Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and North Carolina. It has led to 26 people thus far getting sick, including 4 for whom it was fatal. The drug was made by a pharmacy in Massachusetts called New England Compounding Center, and it has now been shut down. The drug has been recalled as well.
Because the incubation period is between 2 and 28 days, officials expect that there will be new cases appearing in the coming days and weeks.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. There are several types of meningitis, but this particular outbreak is not a contagious one. It is thought to be caused by a fungus which is suspected to have been in the steroid.
According to the Center for Disease Control, symptoms of fungal meningitis are similar to symptoms of other types of the disease, such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and altered mental states. But with the fungal form, the symptoms can appear more gradually. In addition, people with the fungal version may experience hallucinations and personality changes. The patients who were sickened in Tennessee also experienced slurred speech and difficulty walking and urinating.