6 Oct 2012

Tainted drug tied to US meningitis cases

11:28 am on 6 October 2012

A contaminated drug has been linked to a deadly outbreak of meningitis that has claimed the lives of at least five people in the United States and affected 34 others in six states.

AAP reports public health officials were contacting patients in 23 states who received a potentially contaminated steroid injection - typically for back pain - and urging them to be tested for the rare fungal infection.

The worst-hit state was Tennessee, where the number of cases had risen to 29 on Friday, including three deaths.

Due to a long incubation period, health officials urged patients who received the injection as far back as 1 July to contact their doctors for testing.

Fungal meningitis - which inflames the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord - is a rare infection which often goes undetected until it's too late because its flu-like symptoms can be mild at first.