Neither of the two confirmed cases of fungal meningitis found in North Carolina as part of a national outbreak was among patients at an orthopedic clinic in Durham, state officials said Monday.
Fungal meningitis can’t be transmitted from one person to another and is rare. But the number of new cases has been rising almost daily; as of Monday afternoon, eight people had been killed and nearly 100 others sickened in eight states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has linked several of the cases with three potentially contaminated batches of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate, which were injected into patients at a host of health care facilities, including three in North Carolina. But the only one in the Triangle, N.C. Orthopedic Center in Durham, was injecting the medicine into joints, while every diagnosed case tied to the medicine involved injections directly into the spine.
The other two health care facilities in the state identified by the CDC as having used the potentially tainted steroid are the High Point Surgery Center and the Surgery Center of Wilson. Spokeswomen at both said Monday that all patients who may have been injected with medicine from those batches had been notified, including 70 who had been treated at the High Point clinic and 26 at Wilson.
Duke University’s health care system, which owns the N.C. Orthopedic Clinic, released a statement Monday that said it had reached out to all the patients who potentially received the recalled steroid and had talked with all but a few.
Dr. Zack Moore, a medical epidemiologist with the N.C. Division of Public Health, confirmed Monday that the Durham clinic had not been tied to either of the state’s cases, but he declined to say which clinic each of the patients had visited, citing the need to protect their identities.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective sheaths around the brain and spinal cord. The fungal version is less common than types caused by bacteria or virus.
Time lag for symptoms
The symptoms of fungal meningitis can begin slowly, and can include headache, fever, nausea, and stiffness of the neck, confusion, dizziness, and even problems tolerating bright light.
The suspect batches of the medicine were distributed in 23 states and recalled Sept. 26.
But the illness can take weeks to develop, and CDC officials have said they expect more cases to emerge.
CDC officials have not flatly said that the medicine is to blame, but rather that they are continuing a multistate investigation into the cause.