St. Charles Herald-Guide

Hospital, health center say patients safe from meningitis outbreak

Jonathan Menard - November 8, 2012

St. Charles Parish Hospital and the St. Charles Community Health Center both say they do not carry any drugs manufactured by a Massachusetts company whose products have been linked to an outbreak of meningitis.

The drugs, which were sent out around the country by the New England Compounding Center, have sickened more than 350 people so far and caused the deaths of 24. The drugs were apparently contaminated by mold.

"Our pharmacy staff at St. Charles Parish Hospital have done thorough checks of our medications and determined that we have not purchased this medication (methylprednisolone acetate) from the New England Compounding Center for our patients," Hospital spokesman Quinn Landry said. "St. Charles Parish Hospital does not currently use any medications of any kind originating from the New England Compounding Center."

Julia Bodden, with the St. Charles Community Health Center, said that the New England Compounding Center isnít one of the centerís vendors.

"So our patients are safe from this outbreak," she said.

Most of the people that have been sickened from the tainted drugs had a rare form of meningitis that is not infectious to others but causes very subtle symptoms and is hard to treat. They were infected by steroid shots into the spine. Five have been infected by injections to the ankle, knee, shoulder or elsewhere, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The meningitis outbreak has spread to 19 states so far, but Louisiana has not reported any cases.

According to the CDC, 97 percent of the people who may have been affected have been told of the risk. The greatest risk of meningitis comes in the first six weeks after treatment.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord, usually due to the spread of an infection. The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers symptoms that include headache, fever, vomiting, confusion and a stiff neck.

Most cases of meningitis are caused by a viral infection, but bacterial and fungal infections can also lead to meningitis. Depending on the cause of the infection, meningitis can resolve on its own in a couple of weeks ó or it can be a life-threatening emergency.

Hospital, health center say patients safe from meningitis outbreak