Meningitis outbreak has Tennessee on edge

(CBS News) NASHVILLE - The deadly outbreak of meningitis, tied to tainted steroid injections, keeps spreading. On Tuesday, New Jersey became the 10th state to report the infection. About 119 people have become ill and 11 have died. Tennessee has seen the worst of this outbreak.

Ron Barbe drove himself to Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville Tuesday afternoon. He received two injections of a steroid for lower back pain last month.

"Symptoms started this morning," he said, "slight stiff neck and a headache. So I went to see my family doctor and he sent me up here."

A spinal tap will determine whether Barbe has meningitis. "I can't explain it really," he said about what he's feeling. "It's been a week of stress and this drive up here was pretty stressful."

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And for thousands of others who received steroid injections, the stress won't go away soon. This afternoon, health officials warned patients will need to watch for symptoms for three months, not the previously recommended 30 days. One patient developed meningitis symptoms 42 days after his tainted steroid shot.

Tennessee health officials also say they've identified a second fungus in the tainted vials -- Exserohilum -- a fungus most doctors never encounter in all their years practicing medicine.

Barbara Jenkins is worried about her husband, who received a possibly tainted steroid shot.
CBS News

That makes for many nervous people. Barbara Jenkins is one of them.

"We did not get any call from anyone except for a routine follow-up call," she said.

She said the first phone call about the three shots her husband received gave no clue he might be at risk for meningitis, and now they are both anxious.

"I know my husband is sick of me saying, 'Do you feel okay?,' because I'm asking him all the time, 'Do you feel okay?'" said Jenkins.

In a statement, Saint Thomas health officials acknowledge that they did not use the word "meningitis" in a first round of calls to patients. The hospital said as the situation became more clear, it was then able to issue a specific warning.

  • Manuel Bojorquez

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