US fungal meningitis toll rises to 15

Undated photo of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus The strain of fungal meningitis is not contagious, says the CDC

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The US health authorities say 15 people have now died from an outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections to treat back pain.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the latest death occurred in Indiana - the second in the state.

In all, nearly 200 people in 13 US states have been affected.

A company in Massachusetts earlier recalled more than 17,000 vials of steroid it had sent to more than 70 clinics across America.

Thirteen states have been affected: Tennessee, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Idaho and Texas.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious, the CDC says.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include severe headache, nausea and fever as well as slurred speech and difficulty walking.

The drugs have been traced to Massachusetts' New England Compounding Center.

The drug manufacturer last week voluntarily recalled all products in circulation that were made at its Framingham facility.

Massachusetts health regulators have said there were complaints against the pharmaceutical company in 2002 and 2003.

According to the Massachusetts Health Department, 17,676 vials of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate were sent to 76 healthcare providers in 23 states between July and September.

The CDC has published a list of clinics that received shipments of the drug, which was recalled on 26 September.

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