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Florida Health Officials Confirm Second Death from Fungal Meningitis

The Department of Health announced Thursday afternoon that an 83-year- old Marion County man died as a result of the contaminated back pain injection he received at the Marion Pain Management Center in Ocala.

His death marks the second in Florida and the 14th nationwide. The first death was an unidentified 70-year-old man who had been treated at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala in July.

“Across the country, we are seeing the number of cases increase, so it is not unexpected that Florida’s cases will rise,” said Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong.

So far, there have been seven cases of Fungal Meningitis in Florida and 170 cases nationwide. Florida Health Department Officials say all cases are a result of contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

“At this time we have identified 735 of 775 who have received back injections with contaminated steroids. That is 95 percent,” Armstrong says,” obviously continue to work to contact the remaining five percent.

More than 300 patients received contaminated shots to the joints, but officials say, they have had no cases of joint infection.

Symptoms can take 28 to 36 days to emerge. Health officials say, that while fungal meningitis is not contagious and can be treated-- the treatment can cause damage as well.

“Its treatment involves administration of anti-fungal medications. They are stronger than many of our antibiotic medications for bacteria,” Armstrong said,” and as a consequence carry more significant side effects. Those side effects include injury to the kidney and injury to the liver.”

Health officials say symptoms of fungal meningitis can be a headache, neck pain, and slurred speech. They add that nausea and dizziness and weakness on one side of the body can also be a sign of the infection.

The agency has set up a toll-free line to answer questions about the outbreak: 866-523-7339.

-- Health News Florida, journalism for a healthy state, is a service of WUSF Public Media. Question? Comment? Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 or 727-410-3266, or by e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org.

Sarah Pusateri is a former multimedia health policy reporter for Health News Florida, a project of WUSF. The Buffalo New York native most recently worked as a health reporter for Healthystate.org, a two year grant-funded project at WUSF. There, she co-produced an Emmy Award winning documentary called Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military.
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