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Oregon patients watch as nationwide meningitis outbreak spreads

As more cases are reported daily, a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak continues to grab headlines. As many as 13,000 people across the country received contaminated steroid shots that may be to blame for the outbreak. It is not clear, however, how many people are actually in danger and whether the outbreak may lead to wrongful death or malpractice claims.

According to the CDC, over 170 cases have been reported in 11 states. To date, there are no reported cases in Oregon. Although many of the cases have been mild, some patients have suffered strokes or more serious complications. At least nine people have died as a result of the contaminated shots. In all cases, the patients received steroid shots for back pain.

Officials believe the shots were contaminated by a meningitis-causing fungus. The steroid medication was made by a Massachusetts pharmacy. It is estimated 17,700 single-dose vials were sent to 23 states. Inspectors found at least one vial contaminated with the fungus - testing on the vials continues. The company recalled the drug following the first confirmed case last month. It has since voluntarily recalled all its other products.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the spinal cord and brain. Cases of fungal meningitis are generally rare. It is not contagious like other forms of the disease. Symptoms include fever, severe headache and nausea. These symptoms appear between one and four weeks after a patient received a contaminated shot.

Since news of the outbreak first broke, thousands of patients across the country who received these shots have been watching the clock. Losing a loved one is always heartbreaking, but it can be even more devastating under circumstances such as these where the loss was preventable. The outbreak serves as a reminder that wrongful death and malpractice claims are not limited to medical mistakes by doctors, hospitals and healthcare staff. Negligence on behalf of pharmaceutical companies may also have deadly consequences.

SSource: Huffington Post, "Meningitis outbreak: 13,000 got suspect steroid shots, but risk is uncertain," Mike Stobbe, Oct. 8, 2012

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