By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A health official confirmed Friday that a third resident of Elkhart County has died from complications connected to a fungal meningitis outbreak. That outbreak has killed 40 patients and sickened hundreds more throughout the country.
According to Elkhart County Health Officer Daniel Nafziger, this most recent meningitis-related death occurred over the past week and involved a patient who developed complications from a localized infection that developed after being injected with a tainted back pain medication. That brings the total number of reported fungal meningitis cases and related infections in Indiana to 73, with 41 directly linked to Elkhart County.
Doctors first began diagnosing patients with fungal meningitis in early September of last year after a clinician in Tennessee discovered fungus in the spinal fluid of one of her patients. Following her discovery, subsequent reports soon began pouring in from around the country of others afflicted with the same condition.
Further investigation into the growing fungal meningitis outbreak soon revealed that the infections originated with a batch of tainted back pain medication manufactured by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., that had been distributed to nearly 80 clinics around the country, including six in Indiana.
Those afflicted with fungal meningitis can develop a number of serious symptoms including fever, stiff neck, headaches and vomiting. And according to Nafziger, some patients have also developed severe infections in and around the areas where they were injected with the tainted back pain medication, infections that can often prove deadly.
“The increasing number of cases that we’re seeing now involve these localized infections like epidural abscesses or the infections close to the spinal cord, rather than new cases,” Nafziger said. “I’ve been cautiously optimistic that we wouldn’t be seeing anymore cases, but we’ve had a couple more cases just in the last couple days. So it’s clear that these localized infections have a much longer incubation period than anyone thought.
“So we may see a few more cases related to the localized infections, but I’m cautiously optimistic that we won’t be seeing any more new fungal meningitis cases.”