Three more meningitis deaths reported, toll at 28

The New England Compounding Center is seen in Framingham, Mass., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012.
Stephan Savoia

Three more people have died from meningitis as part of the nationwide outbreak tied to contaminated steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center, raising the total to 28 deaths.

The outbreak has now sickened 356 people with fungal meningitis in 19 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

On Monday Oct. 29, the CDC reported sickened 347 meningitis cases including 25 deaths in 19 states.

Two new deaths were reported in Michigan, the state with the most meningitis cases at 89 infected. The other death occurred in Tennessee, which has the second-most cases with 74 infected with fungal meningitis.

Infections have been reported in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Another seven individuals were identified with fungal joint infections from steroid shots administrated to other joints like the knees, hips, shoulders or ankles, increasing the total number of those affected to 363 people.

Most of those infected in the outbreak received methylprednisolone acetate injections for back pain that were made by the Framingham, Mass. specialty pharmacy. A preliminary Food and Drug Administration report last Friday showed the presence of mold, bacteria and other discoloration on vials and equipment at the company's facility.

Investigators found 83 vials out of a bin containing 321 vials of recalled preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate contained a "greenish black foreign matter." Another 17 vials in the same bin contained a "white filamentous material." Fifty of the vials were sent by the FDA to a lab and tested, and all 50 confirmed the presence of microbial growth contamination.

The FDA's report also found the New England Compounding Center had conducted its own tests and found contamination dating back to January 2012, but had no documentation of actions taken to address the contamination.

Massachusetts health officials have moved to revoke the New England Compounding Center's license.