Meningitis Outbreak Worries the Nation

It’s all over the news: There’s a meningitis outbreak that’s spreading across the US. What does this mean for your health?

Meningitis Outbreak Worries the Nation

For the last three weeks, America’s emergency rooms have been overrun with people worried that they may have a rare form of deadly meningitis. As of October 19, there have been 257 confirmed cases of meningitis in 16 states and 20 deaths from unusually rare forms of meningitis. Of those cases, 47 were laboratory-confirmed fungal cases. The fungi, exserohilum rostratum, aspergillus, and cladosporium, are commonly found in the environment, but very rarely cause meningitis.

CDC Map of Meningitis Outbreaks as of October 18, 2012 


Now, federal health authorities have confirmed that the source of the fungus came from tainted vials of a steroid from a specialty pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Physicians unknowingly injected the tainted steroid medication in the spines, knees and ankles of approximately 14,000 Americans from May to September of this year in order to alleviate the pain and swelling associated with arthritis and other joint disorders. On October 6, the NECC voluntarily recalled the vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetat, and released a statement indicating that they were “eager to review these findings as part of our continued cooperation with the CDC and FDA to identify the cause of this contamination." The FDA found exserohilum fungi in unopened vials of the steroid in their investigation. So far, three victims have filed class-action lawsuits against the NECC.

Currently, the FDA is warning health-care professionals to not use any product made by the NECC, even if it wasn’t recalled. These products include other injectable types of medications, like ophthalmic medication used for eye surgeries and a cardioplegic solution used during open heart surgeries.

If you haven’t received any spinal or joint injections since May 2012, don’t be alarmed. Fungal meningitis from exserohilum rostratum or the other fungi is not contagious from person-to-person contact. However, if you or a loved one experience the following symptoms, go – do not wait – to the emergency room for further evaluation, as meningitis is a deadly disease if not caught early.

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Confusion or Altered Mental Status

Exactly How to De-Escalate Aggression From a Stranger

Follow security Expert Bill Staton's important advice to keep yourself safe.

Have you ever had a tense interaction with a stranger in public? Perhaps your shopping carts accidentally knocked into each other or there was a misunderstanding in communication and the other person gets angry. You may wonder how you can de-escalate the aggression and exit the situation safely. So security expert Bill Stanton has your go-to advice for staying alert and protecting yourself in the face of verbal aggression and physical attacks.

THE INITIAL INTERACTION

Bill Stanton: "It always starts with something small, like someone being too close to you, or even more common, you get bumped by a shopping cart. You want to look at their eyes first -it may reveal emotional changes. But you can't rely on just that. Look at what their trunk is doing; a person's torso will reveal their intent. Body language like raising hands, heightened expression, tense shoulders — these are natural responses to a person who is feeling threatened and will escalate. They may begin to zero in on the space between you and them, and their voice will get louder and louder. You want to read this before it gets further and becomes explosive."

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