After eleven patients contracted a rare form of meningitis after undergoing epidurals at St. Thomas Neurosurgery Clinic, the clinic, according to the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), was shut down. Two patients who contracted the fungal meningitis at the clinic have died.
These eleven patients, who ranged from ages 40 to 80, received the epidural steroid injections at the clinic between July 30 and September 20. These type of injections are normally administered to relieve lower back pain.
The Centers for Disease Control and the TDH are working together to investigate the outbreak of this unusual form of meningitis. Although the investigation has not yet discovered the culprit for the outbreak, the steroid injections have been recalled. Authorities stated that more than a dozen states may be affected.
On September 20, after a clinician discovered a case of the fungal meningitis, the St. Thomas Clinic was closed. TDH Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner stated that fungal meningitis differs from bacterial and viral meningitis in that it is not contagious. “This type of meningitis is not spread from person to person,” he said.
The symptoms of fungal meningitis usually appear between seven and 28 days after treatment. These symptoms can include headaches, fever, numbness or slurring speech. If experiencing any of the symptoms, it is very important to seek medical care as soon as possible for the earlier treatment begins, the more positive the outcome will be. Treatments for fungal meningitis could include anti-fungals and steroids.
Dr. Dreyzehner said that 737 patients at the clinic who received the same injection during that time frame have been alerted to the infection and have also been examined. He added that contracting this type of meningitis is very rare in patients with functioning immune systems, and added that a team of experts is working to determine what is the best way to treat the surviving patients.
The commissioner stressed that this is a “very, very unusual event … this is not a complication that would be expected in the normal course of things.”