Meningitis outbreak deaths rise to 6 in Tenn.

Meningitis outbreak deaths rise to 6 in Tenn. (Image 1)

The Tennessee Department of Health raised the number of people sickened by the fungal meningitis outbreak to 39.

That now also includes two more deaths, bringing the number to six.

State health department officials also extended the time it may take a person who received contaminated spinal steroid injections to present symptoms and get sick.

Dr. John Dreyzehner, the Tennessee Health Commissioner, said Tuesday some patients who received spinal epidural shots for pain as far back as July 1, will have to wait longer to know they are in the clear.

Dr. Dreyzehner told Nashville’s News 2 the incubation time for fungal meningitis symptoms to appear is now longer.

“Our earliest estimate was in the range of two to 28 days,” said Dr. Dreyzehner, “Based on the analysis of additional case studies, the more accurate analysis appears to be six to 42 days.”

This extended time period leads the state health department to believe new patients will continue to be identified.

“It would not be unreasonable to consider that we may be discovering newly identified patients as late as the end of this month, or even in to early November,” added Dr. Dreyzehner.

More than 1,000 miles away from Nashville, Tuesday morning, the board that oversees pharmacies in Massachusetts met to discuss the outbreak surrounding the New England Compounding Center (NECC).

“On behalf of the board, we want to express our deepest sympathy for the patients, their families who have been impacted by this tragedy,” said James Devita, president of the Massachusetts Pharmacy Board.

Since the outbreak was identified on September 18, health officials tied the fungal meningitis strain to a steroid shot for back pain supplied by the NECC, which is located in Framingham, Massachusetts.

So far, 119 cases, including 11 deaths have been identified in the U.S.

That includes 39 cases, including six deaths here in Tennessee.

“We have approximately 1,000 people who were treated in Tennessee who we believe to be at risk,” said Dr. Dreyzehner, “Many of those people received multiple injections.”

The state believes less than five percent of those will get fungal meningitis, but doctors continue to urge at-risk patients to pay close attention to any changes in their condition.

Health officials with the state planned to present another update on Friday at 1 p.m.

The NECC voluntarily surrendered its license and recalled all implicated products.

The state said at this point, it can not yet identify any medications that might contain the recalled products.

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