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Florida Health Officials Confirm Two More Cases of Fungal Meningitis

The Department of Health announced that the cases of fungal meningitis in Florida have risen to nine. A 52- year old woman and a 79- year old woman are being treated after getting steroid shots in the back at the Marion County Pain Management Center.

Nationwide 170 cases have been reported. Health Department Officials say all cases are a result of contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

There have been two deaths in Florida and 14 nationwide. 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. The first death was an unidentified 70-year-old man who had been treated at the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala in July.

When a reporter asked health officials about the Florida Pain Clinic in Ocala doctor who denies that his patient died as a result of the steroid shot he received at his clinic, officials said they were still investigating that claim.

“As part of our investigation, we are defining how it is that these steroid injections were administered and documented," said Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong, " and then we will gain greater insights into the usage of these steroid medications.”

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.”

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.