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US meningitis cases mount

More cases of meningitis confirmed in the US.

NASHVILLE – More cases of fungal meningitis tied to contaminated steroid shots were confirmed today, US health officials said, and some patients who received the injections may have to wait weeks to know if they are infected.

Since the September 25 recall of three lots of a steroid produced by a Massachusetts company, the outbreak has spread to nine states and 105 patients, with eight people killed, the Centres for Disease Control said.

As many as 13,000 people received the injections and are at risk of infection, the CDC said, although the number ultimately stricken is likely to be far fewer.

The outbreak has alarmed health officials and highlighted a gap in regulation of so-called pharmacy compounders, which are facilities that take drug ingredients and package them into medications and dosages for specific clients.

Some of the thousands of people exposed may have to wait anxiously for weeks because the incubation period of the disease is up to a month, health experts said.

“Infected patients have (come forward) approximately one to four weeks following their injection with a variety of symptoms including fever, new or worsening headache, nausea and other new symptoms consistent with a stroke,” the CDC’s Dr. Benjamin Park has said.

The number of cases rapidly increased as health practitioners at 76 facilities in 23 states notified those who received the shots and patients were examined.

Tennessee is the hardest hit state with 35 cases confirmed so far, and one hospital, Saint Thomas in Nashville, received about 2,000 phials from the steroid supplies recalled by the company. (Reuters)

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