ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota reported its 12th confirmed case of fungal meningitis Tuesday in a national outbreak linked to tainted steroids from a Massachusetts pharmacy.
The new case is a Twin Cities-area man in his 50s who received a spinal injection at a metro pain clinic that received contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center, assistant state epidemiologist Richard Danila said. The tainted drugs have been blamed for 438 cases and 32 deaths in 19 states.
"He had some symptoms and he got better. But in the last few weeks he got worse again," Danila said, adding that his symptoms included headaches and sensitivity to light.
The patient underwent a spinal tap earlier, but the test results were borderline and health officials didn't confirm he had fungal meningitis until he underwent a second puncture last week, Danila said.
Danila said this man was not hospitalized, but he thinks at least 10 of the 12 confirmed cases were hospitalized for at least a day or two. He said some were hospitalized longer, and some were released but later readmitted. However, he cautioned, it's "really dicey" to sort out how many were hospitalized for fungal meningitis, side effects from their treatment or their pre-existing medical conditions.
While the pace is slowing down, Danila said the new case shows more could still turn up. The U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and prevention has said the risk appears to fall off after 42 days, and the last Minnesota patient to receive an injection from the tainted lots got it about 48 days ago. But Danila said 42 days is just a guideline, and the experts can't be certain yet when the risk will be over.
"We're still not out of the woods yet," he said.