Clinics scramble in scare over meningitis
By Rick Wills
Published: Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 11:56 p.m.
Efforts to contact hundreds of Pennsylvania patients who got doses of a contaminated steroid moved quickly Friday and one clinic that used the medicine was deluged with hundreds of calls.
No cases of fungal meningitis were reported from a contaminated lot of steroids administered to patients at a South Hills clinic, health officials said.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Dr. Jim Lando, acting chief of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Allegheny County Health Department.
Contaminated medications administered spinally for back pain from the Massachusetts manufacturer are connected to an outbreak of fungal meningitis that has killed five people and made 47 ill in seven states. On Friday, Michigan became the seventh state to report illnesses, announcing four cases.
Authorities are trying to contact at least 350 people who received injections of the steroids, which were recalled, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“All of these people are being contacted directly,” said spokeswoman Cait Gillis.
South Hills Pain and Rehab Associates and Allegheny Pain Management in Altoona are the only clinics in the state that received contaminated lots of the steroids, according to the state Health Department.
A statement from South Hills Pain and Rehab, with offices in Jefferson Hills, Bethel Park, Monessen and Brentwood, said it administered the drug to “a number of our patients” and based on the guidance of the county health department, it is attempting to contact each person.“We have successfully reached most patients by phone. Those we are unable to reach will be sent a certified letter,” the statement read.
Company officials declined a request for an interview.
South Hills Pain and Rehab Associates has contacted about 200 patients, Lando said.
“It's an incredible amount of work for them, contacting people and answering hundreds of extra phone calls. But they are determined to contact everyone,” Lando said of the clinic.
No cases of fungal meningitis related to the steroids have been identified in Pennsylvania, officials said. The incubation period can be up to 28 days.
Pennsylvania is one of 23 states where medical facilities received shipments of methylprednisolone acetate made by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., a specialty pharmacy that the FDA ordered shut down. Professionals often use that steroid for treatment of back pain.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord with symptoms that include severe headaches, nausea, dizziness and fever. Fungal meningitis is not contagious but treatment is prolonged and requires hospitalization.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland counties weigh shale gas drilling on public land
- Worst of winter storm expected to miss Pittsburgh
- Penn State to add cameras at main campus to enhance security
- Painting displayed in Johnstown honors fallen Pa. National Guard aviators
- Lawmakers propose removing state judges from Pennsylvania ballots
- Burgeoning police badge collecting poses problems for law enforcement
- Grants aren’t the same old payouts, Corbett says
- Pa. to vie for Boeing plant
- Township takes title to British POW camp land