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Meadville doc: meningitis scare not a local concern

Submitted Tue, 10/16/2012 - 7:19am by Andy Alm

MEADVILLE – The meningitis outbreak, connected to tainted steroid shots, that’s killed 15 people nationwide and sickened at least 214 is not a concern locally.  Dr. Heath Fallin of Meadville Pain Management says the contaminated shots came from a Massachussets based pharmacy called the New England Compounding Center.

“I have no information that anyone in the state of Pennsylvania has received a batch of steroids from this group,” Fallin says.

A mold called Aspergillus apparently made its way into the shots while they were being mixed at the pharmacy.  And Aspergillus, according to Fallin, is actually a very common type of mold that we breathe in every day.

“As long as it’s getting into your nose and stuff like that, it’s no big deal.  Your body can fight it.  If you inject it into the spine, you’ve got a lot of problems.”

The contaminated shots were injected directly into the spines of chronic pain sufferers, resulting in a fungal infection of the meninges – the lining of the spinal cord and brain.

“If they get infected or inflamed, then the infection can travel along the meninges and cause significant pain, nerve damage, or even death if it crosses over into the brain tissue or the spinal cord itself.”

A few early warning signs of meningitis are fever, chills, neck pain, and light sensitivity.  And Fallin says if you think you have these symptoms, early treatment is best.

“Once the fungus sets up house somewhere in an area that’s not easy to get medications to, then it’s very hard to kill.  But if we can get to it soon and before it sets up really heavily in some area, then the anti-fungals we have are actually very good.”