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Posted on Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

2 Michigan deaths linked to growing fungal meningitis outbreak, officials say

By Sven Gustafson

State officials say two people have died from an outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to a contaminated, injectible steroid, and the federal government on Sunday updated the total number of cases in Michigan to 20.

Six of the people infected with the meningitis remain hospitalized at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Department of Community Health told the Associated Press on Saturday it would have no details about the deaths until after the weekend. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday updated the number of cases in Michigan to 20.

St. Joseph Mercy spokeswoman Lauren Smoker said Sunday that the hospital still counts six confirmed cases of the meningitis fungus but had no known deaths.

“I can say that they range from good condition to serious condition,” Smoker said of the affected patients.

The fungus has been linked to an injectible steroid used to treat back pain and manufactured by a company in Massachusetts. Four Michigan facilities received shipments of the steroid and were working to notify patients:

  • Michigan Neurosurgical Institute of Grand Blanc
  • Michigan Pain Specialists in Brighton
  • Neuromuscular & Rehabilitation in Traverse City
  • Southeast Michigan Surgical Hospital in Warren

St. Joseph has said that all six affected patients received epidural injections after July 1 from a facility that received the steroid from the Massachusetts company.

University of Michigan Health System spokesman Pete Barkey said the hospital system hasn't positively identified any patients with the meningitis strain. He said the Department of Community Health has asked hospitals to refer suspicious cases to it for further analysis.

"We have referred some cases to MDCH for further analysis," Barkey said.

The health system earlier told it didn’t carry the company’s steroid but threw out the rest of the products it carried from the company suspected in the outbreak.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord that carries symptoms of severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever. The fungal meningitis in the current case is not contagious.

The AP reported Sunday that seven people have died nationwide and federal health officials fear thousands more could have been exposed to the fungus. The government has identified about 75 facilities in 23 states that received the recalled doses.

As of Sunday, the CDC says the outbreak has infected 91 people in nine states.


Robert Williams

Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

I thought st. Joes didn't hire smokers


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

The name of the company has been in the news regarding the recall. It is the New England Compounding Center, according to news reports I've read. I haven't seen any detailed information about the ingredients or manufacturing of the steroid.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 1:10 a.m.

Ask your doctor if fungal meningitis is right for you. Signed, Big Pharma.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

No. It's not "big pharma" that's responsible for the fungal contamination of the steroid; it's a compounding pharmacy that made it. So that's like saying that corporate McDonalds is responsible because an employee at a franchise mishandled your food and you got sick.


Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

"The fungus has been linked to an indictable steroid used to treat back pain and manufactured by a company in Massachusetts." -- no mention of the name of the company responsible for this nation wide tragedy. When a nation dispenses with accountability, it dispenses with its future as well. An, and would be kind enough to supply us with the meaning of the term: "indictable steroid" - ? That last time I checked, in·dict·a·ble . MEANT: adj. 1. Capable of being indicted: Evidence suggested that the official was indictable for the crime. 2. Making one liable to indictment.


Mon, Oct 8, 2012 : 1:19 a.m.

The first paragraph of the story says " injectible steroid" not indictable.


Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 10:43 p.m.

I hope you aren't counting on for national news - much less in-depth local news. But, the name of the company responsible for the fungus-laced steroids is: New England Compounding Center (NECC)