US & Canada

Meningitis outbreak hits 119 people in 10 US states

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

The death toll in an outbreak of fungal meningitis has risen to 11, affecting a total of 119 people in 10 US states.

Fatalities were up from eight on Monday, with 97 others sickened, said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The outbreak is linked to tainted steroid injections used to treat back pain, which could have been given to some 13,000 patients, says authorities.

Local police have been enlisted in some areas to help identify patients who might have been exposed to the disease.

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

The fungal meningitis is not contagious, the CDC says.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of 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 the New England Compounding Center, in Framingham, Massachusetts.

On Sunday, the CDC said the drug manufacturer had 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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