Meningitis death toll rises, 14 more infected

Another death from meningitis was reported by federal health officials Friday, who say there are now 271 infections in 16 states tied to the deadly outbreak caused by contaminated steroid injections.

Most of those infected have confirmed cases of fungal meningitis -- mostly from steroid injections used for back pain -- but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes three of the cases may have fungal infections at joints where they received the injections, such as the knees, ankles or shoulders.

Yesterday the agency reported 257 infected patients in 16 states.

Three lots of contaminated steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. that up to 14,000 patients received for pain treatments are thought to be behind the nationwide outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that the fungus found in at least 40 people sickened with fungal meningitis -- called Exserohilum rostratum - was also found in more than 50 unopened vials from one of the recalled lots. Tests are pending on the other two recalled lots. In total more than 17,000 vials were recalled.

Exserohilum is common in dirt and grasses, but it rarely causes illness and has never before been identified as a cause of meningitis, according to CDC officials.

On Friday, Ameridose, a company that shares ownership with the New England Compounding Center, announced it would extend its closure to assist investigators. The New England Compounding Center has been under investigation from federal agencies.

"The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy requested that we agree to extend the temporary closure of our facilities to allow it to continue and complete its inspection that has been underway since our initial agreement of October 10. We have agreed to this extension in the spirit of full cooperation," Ameridose said in an emailed statement to CBS News.

CDC officials have found that only one drug has been definitively linked to the outbreak, methylprednisolone acetate steroid injections, even though the New England Compounding Center (NECC) made hundreds of products.

"We know that the list of medications is long," infectious diseases expert Dr. John Jernigan, who is leading the clinical investigation, told the CBS Evening News. "And so far, we haven't identified any cases that we've documented of fungal infections related to any other products, but it's important that we remain vigilant and we continue to investigate this in case that should change."

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