World Bulletin / News Desk
The toll from the outbreak of fungal meningitis tied to contaminated steroid shots that has killed 12 people in the United States was expected to grow on Wednesday, raising pressure for stricter oversight of a largely unregulated corner of the pharmaceutical world.
On Tuesday, the outbreak claimed four more lives and Florida became the latest state to report at least one death linked to the illness in a widening health scare.
Since the Sept. 25 recall of three lots of a steroid produced by a Massachusetts company, the outbreak has spread to 10 states and infected 121 people, according to state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In five states -- Tennessee, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida -- the outbreak has claimed lives, with the latest victim a 70-year-old man in Florida.
As many as 13,000 people received the injections to relieve back pain and other complaints and are at risk of infection, the CDC said, although the number ultimately stricken is likely to be far fewer.
For the first time on Tuesday, Tennessee state health officials gave an estimate of the rate of infection among those patients who received injections from the recalled steroid supplies.
Approximately 5 percent of patients treated with the suspect medication have contracted meningitis, said Dr. David Reagan, chief medical officer for the Tennessee Department of Health. Based on that rate of infection and the 13,000 shots given, the number of confirmed cases could grow to about 650 from the current 121.
"We expect that most people who were exposed to this will not develop a fungal infection," Reagan said.
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, fever and nausea. Fungal meningitis, unlike viral and bacterial meningitis, is not contagious.
The outbreak has alarmed health officials and highlighted a gap in regulation of so-called pharmacy compounders, which are facilities that take drug ingredients and package them into medications and dosages for specific clients.
The federal Food and Drug Administration regulates only the ingredients and not the compounders, which are subject to a patchwork of state oversight.
Some of the thousands of people exposed may have to wait anxiously for weeks because the incubation period of the disease is up to a month, health experts said.
The potentially tainted steroid vials, which have been recalled, were shipped to 76 facilities in 23 states, the CDC has said.
Tennessee has been the hardest hit state, with six reported deaths and 39 cases of meningitis, followed by Michigan with three deaths and 25 cases, Virginia with one death and 24 cases and Maryland with one death and eight cases.
The other states with cases are Indiana (12), Florida (6), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1) and New Jersey (1).
A blind Muslim Microsoft engineer has unveiled an AI-powered project that helps him 'see' the world
Google is being accused of using practices aimed at preserve its market dominance
Quantum spin liquid validates theory first suggested in 1973
International Civil Aviation Organization 'recognizes that sub-orbital and outer space flights will foster new tourism and transport market'
A joint European-Russian mission aiming to search for traces of life on Mars blasted off on Monday for the start of a seven-month unmanned space journey to the Red Planet.
Scott Kelly has spent more time in space than any other American and has returned back from his mission
Administrator touts success in planetary study, deep-space experiments, aviation innovation
A man left brain-dead after an experimental drug trial in France has died, local media report.
Facebook founder to donate majority of fortune over lifetime to newly formed charity
Facebook will appeal a date privacy ruling in Belgium that forces the social media giant to stop collecting digital information about people who are non-members
Japanese, Chinese, Irish scientists win 2015 Nobel prize in medicine for malaria and parasite research
Discovery could have major implications for pursuit of life on the red planet
Lawsuit sheds light on no poaching policy at Silicon Valley’s biggest companies
Searches for oncoming storms will display information such as maps, forecasts, reminders and preparedness instructions
New service unveiled as survey finds Americans having hard time navigating smartphone etiquette