Yikes! A deadly meningitis outbreak already sounds like pretty much the worst kind of outbreak that can, um, break out. But the numbers make it sound even worse: So far, the current epidemic has sickened 105 people across 9 states, killing 8. And then there's the scariest number of all: As many as 13,000 people might have been exposed to this "rarely seen" strain of fungal meningitis. Yikes! How did this whole thing start -- and who needs to worry about it?!
Well, here's the good news: Fungal meningitis is not spread from person to person.
Nope, this outbreak has been linked to steroid spinal injections, which were sent to clinics in 23 states. All three contaminated lots of methylprednisolone acetate steroid, which is used to treat back pain, have been recalled, but there's no telling how many of the shots already administered may have contained the meningitis-causing fungus. (Note: These are NOT the same steroid shots given to women during childbirth.)
So if you haven't received any steroid injections lately, you're probably in the clear. Just in case, you should know that some of the symptoms of fungal meningitis differ from the symptoms of regular meningitis -- here's what to look for (some patients exhibit just one or two of these):
Stiffness of the neck
Discomfort from bright lights
Symptoms have been appearing between one and four weeks after patients received the shots. If you have any fears, get to the doctor asap: Fungal meningitis is potentially treatable! (Usually by intravenous high-dose antifungal medications.)
Do you know anyone who might be at risk of developing fungal meningitis?
Image via Yaniv Ben-Arie/Flickr