Audio report by Keighly Chambers
Update: 10:26 a.m. 10/24 — State officials confirmed the 19th Florida case of meningitis Tuesday. A 66-year-old woman is the 14th case in Marion County and got her tainted injection six weeks ago at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala. Of the 23 deaths nationwide, three were in Marion County, according to The Ocala-Star Banner.
Original Story — The Florida Department of Health confirmed Monday an additional patient with fungal meningitis, raising the state’s total to 18 infected patients.
The latest confirmed case is a 55-year-old man who received treatment at Pain Consultants of West Florida in Escambia County, according to Dr. John Armstrong, Florida’s surgeon general and secretary of health. He added that three patients in Florida have died from the infection, which is caused by contaminated New England Compounding Center (NECC) steroid injections.
“Our department of health has reached all 1,038 patients who received contaminated NECC steroid injections at the six facilities with contaminated lots as identified by the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,” Armstrong said Monday in a phone conference. “Although there is no evidence at this time that any NECC products other than the three lots of steroids are contaminated, our department of health has emphasized the importance of informing all patients who may have received any of these NECC medications since May 21st of the possibility of infection.”
There are 297 cases of infection across the nation and 23 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest release. Armstrong said the fungal meningitis associated with contaminated NECC steroid back injections is not contagious, and “the contaminated epidural steroid medications associated with this outbreak are not the same epidural injections given to pregnant women during child birth.”
The Florida Department of Health obtained voluntary relinquishment of the NECC pharmacy permit, and NECC agreed never to apply for a permit in Florida, Armstrong said. He added that no contaminated NECC steroid medications are available in patient care settings in Florida.
“Any Florida health care facility that received any medication from NECC is reminded of the Food and Drug Administration guidance to follow recall procedures for the NECC medications,” Armstrong said. “The Food and Drug Administration remains concerned about the sterility of NECC medication procedures.”
The Florida Department of Health has provided a list of the 260 Florida facilities that received NECC medications since January of this year. Armstrong said the top 10 pharmacy chains in Florida have verified that they do not purchase or dispense any NECC products. Those chains include Sam’s Club, Walgreens, CVS, Costco Wholesale, Walmart, Medco and Publix.
Armstrong said the Department of Health in collaboration with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation sent letters Monday to eight manufacturers of anti-fungal medications, urging the manufacturers to ensure an adequate supply of medication remains available to treat patients with fungal meningitis in Florida. The eight manufacturers produce two of the primary anti-fungal medications used in treating patients who have fungal meningitis related to contaminated steroid injections.
“We have also urged these companies to guard against and report any outbreak-driven market irregularities or distortions, including price diversion, hording or suspicious ordering patterns calculated to create or exploit any general or local shortage,” he said, adding that the health department is not aware of supply problems in Florida at this time.
Armstrong said there are 4 confirmed cases in Escambia County, 13 in Marion County and none in South Florida at this time, but the health department remains concerned that it will see additional cases of fungal meningitis because “the incubation period has a range from seven to 81 days.”
“This is an ongoing and dynamic multi-state investigation,” he said.