830 Minnesota steroid patients await fungal meningitis calls - KMSP-TV

830 Minnesota steroid patients await fungal meningitis calls

Posted: Updated:
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The Minnesota Department of Health will continue calling people to let them know if they're infected with the fungal meningitis that's already killed eight people nationwide.

State health officials say three women in Minnesota are being treated for mild symptoms of fungal meningitis. The health department has also attempted to notify more than 830 people who may be infected, and will continue calling people Monday.

MDH officials say so far, it seems that nine of the potentially-affected patients do not have a working phone. Another 100 have not yet returned messages, so there are still many Minnesotans who have not yet been screened.

Anyone who received a steroid shot from either the Minnesota Advanced Pain Center or the Minnesota Surgery Center is urged to call their clinic or go to a doctor for testing.

The full extent of the meningitis cases may not be known for quite some time, but the CDC says 105 people have been infected nationwide, with eight fatalities reported.

The patients and victims all received spinal steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center -- a pharmacy in Massachusetts.

It's feared that more than 17,000 contaminated vials were shipped-out to pain clinics in 23 states, including six clinics in Minnesota. Potentially-infected patients across the country are carefully watching for symptoms like headache, fever and stiff neck, while nervously awaiting test results.

"This last Tuesday I had a very severe headache that I could not even get out of bed and it has not gone away yet," said Tami Kellems, who may be infected. "The worry from day-to-day, like today, it's just nerve-racking."

The irony of the outbreak is that the pain associated with fungal meningitis often shares the same symptoms as the pains the steroids are used to treat.

Melissa Stevens found out on Friday night that the steroid shot she got had come from the pharmacy linked to the meningitis outbreak. Stephens said the neck pain and headaches she struggles with following a car accident have intensified over the last month, and she became concerned.

Stevens decided to go in to the emergency room to get her blood drawn and get a spinal tap. In the end, the tests showed she's in the clear.

"The best part is they did let me leave," she said. "If I would have tested positive, I would have had to stay there and be treated until I was clear of the infection, so it's good news."

Fungal meningitis is an inflammation of the lining that surrounds the brain and the spine. While it can be deadly, it is highly-treatable if diagnosed and treated right away. Unlike other strains of meningitis, it is not contagious.

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