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MN Health Department Continues Fungal Meningitis Screenings

Officials are still trying to reach about 100 who received steroid shots at clinics in Edina, Maple Grove, Shakopee and Fridley.

Minnesota officials on Monday were still trying to reach about 100 people who received steroid shots tied to a multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis that has killed 8 people and infected 105 others in nine states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Minnesota Department of Health staff worked through the weekend to call by phone 831 people who got steroid treatment at six nearby clinics located in Edina, Maple Grove, Fridley and Shakopee.

Three Minnesotans Infected
So far, three Minnesota women have been hospitalized with the infection but are doing well, according to MDH spokesperson Buddy Ferguson. The MDH said all three are in their 40s but hasn't said more about them or where they got the infection.

A 39-year-old Maple Grove resident, told the Associated Press she had "very frequent and quite intense" headaches and was awaiting test results.

The pharmacy that produced the steroids, New England Compounding Center, has recalled 17,676 possibly meningitis-infected steroids, according to Framingham Patch.

Not Contagious
The fungal meningitis outbreak is very rare, is not the same as more well-known viral or bacterial meningitis infections, and is not spread by person-to-person contact, Ferguson said. The MDH's advice:

For patients who received a steroid injection in the spinal area, symptoms may include headache, worsening of a headache that was already present, fever, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, or pain at the site where they received their injection.  Many of the patients who became ill also had symptoms of stroke, such as weakness, difficulty with speech, visual changes or altered consciousness.

For patients who received an injection in another part of the body, symptoms may include swelling, redness and pain around the injection site, and fever or chills.

Six Minnesota Sites
Two providers in Minnesota provided the tainted steroids at six clinics:

  • Minnesota Surgery Center (MSC) in Edina and Maple Grove

The Minnesota Department of Health has not said exactly how or where the two Minnesotans got the infection. Ferguson said his understanding was that the six clinics provided care for patients from across the state. A spokesperson for the providers didn't immediately return a message Monday afternoon.

Winnowing the List
Working with the providers, MDH staff developed a list of about 950 patients to contact who had gotten the steroid injection from July through September. Over the weekend they lowered that number to 831 and were able to talk to most of them. 

About 100 people got a voicemail from MDH but had not returned the message by Monday afternoon, Ferguson said. About nine other people appeared not to have a working phone.

The remaining patients will be contacted very soon, one way or another. "We want to move quickly on this," Ferguson said.

Incubation Period
The MDH advised patients that symptoms might develop over a period from one to four weeks after the steroid treatment, Ferguson said. People who don't have symptoms now but develop them in coming weeks should see their primary physicians, he said. Although the three infected patients in Minnesota are "not that severely ill," he said, fungal meningitis is "potentially life threatening."

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