Fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections for chronic pain was confirmed Sunday in a third Minnesota woman in her 40s, a state Department of Health spokesman said.
Nationwide, seven people have died of the illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta reported Sunday. More than 90 cases have been confirmed nationwide.
Steroid products produced by the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., have been linked to all of the cases, the CDC said. That company, which is now closed, issued a voluntary recall of all of its products over the weekend.
The names and hometowns of the Minnesota patients, all of whom are being treated with antibiotics and antifungal drugs, are not being released. After they suffered symptoms of meningitis, including severe fever, stiff neck and headache, evidence of the infection was found in their spinal fluid, the Health Department said.
Buddy Ferguson, spokesman for the state Health Department, stressed again Sunday that the general public is not at risk for the dangerous illness. Fungal infections associated with the steroid products are different from the more common viral and bacterial forms of meningitis and can't be transmitted from person to person, so those who have not been treated with the steroid products aren't in danger, he said.
However, a person who had injections but feels fine now should remain vigilant, he said -- it can take four to six weeks for symptoms to appear.
The only Minnesota health care providers known to have used the drug -- an injectable steroid used for pain relief known as methylprednisolone acetate -- are Medical Advanced Pain Specialists in Edina, Fridley, Shakopee and Maple Grove, and the Minnesota Surgery Center in Edina and Maple Grove. State health officials are working with those clinics to contact patients who were treated with steroids from the Massachusetts firm.
About 950 Minnesota patients are believed to have been treated with the drug. Ferguson said most will have been contacted by Sunday night.
Anyone who has fallen ill after getting a steroid injection should contact their health care provider right away, Ferguson said. "Don't wait for us to call you," he said.
The New England Compounding Center said the recall was taken out of an abundance of caution because of the risk of contamination. There is no indication that any of its other products have been contaminated, it said.
The Food and Drug Administration had previously told health professionals not to use any products distributed by the center.
Staff writer Pamela Miller and the Associated Press contributed to this report.