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Experts: Fungal meningitis not in U.P.

Tainted meds linked to 12 deaths nationwide

October 11, 2012
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK - The number of people in the United States who have died from fungal meningitis caused by tainted steroid medication has grown to 12, but according to Dr. Terry Frankovich, there have been no deaths or reported cases of exposure in the Upper Peninsula.

Frankovich, who is Western Upper Peninsula Medical Director, said the contaminated steroid medication hasn't made it to the U.P.

"Although there have been cases in Michigan, no medical facilities in the U.P. have received the medication," she said. "Since this meningitis is not transmitted person to person, we're not expecting cases in the U.P."

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, there have been 137 confirmed cases of exposure in 10 states, including Michigan, as of Wednesday, with 12 deaths. There have been 28 cases and three deaths in Michigan.

The steroid medication contaminated with the fungus is called a compound and was manufactured by a company called New England Compounding Center. The steroid was given to patients with back pain by epidural injection.

In a written statement, Frankovich wrote meningitis, "is an inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord." The fungal cause of infection is rare.

The questionable lots of the compound steroid have been recalled, Frankovich said, but since the illness takes one to four weeks to manifest itself, there may be more cases reported. However, since the contaminated medication has been recalled, there will be no more exposures.

All patients who received the contaminated medication have been contacted, Frankovich said.

Neither Portage Health or Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital have the contaminated medication, according to written statements from both facilities.

Jessica Bessner, director of pharmacy at Aspirus Keweenaw and Aspirus Ontonagon, wrote, "The pharmacies at Aspirus Keweenaw and Aspirus Ontonagon purchase our medications directly from the manufacturers, not from compounding pharmacies. Therefore, our medications were not recalled in this case."

Tracey Bershing, R.Ph., Portage Health inpatient pharmacy supervisor, wrote, "Portage Health has not obtained any medications from the New England Compounding Center, and therefore we have not dispensed any contaminated products from this company."



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