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Sen. Blumenthal Calls For Greater FDA Oversight Amid Growing Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) - Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has called for greater government oversight, amid a growing outbreak of fungal meningitis.

Federal health officials said as of Sunday afternoon there have been more than 90 confirmed cases of the disease, seven of them fatal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked the outbreak to a steroid commonly used to treat back pain.

The Massachusetts company linked to the fungal meningitis outbreak has issued a voluntary recall for all of its products amid the growing number of reported cases.

The outbreak has affected nine states but none in the Tri-State Area so far.

"Regardless of whether we are spared specific cases, this incident ought to be a clear alarm, a wake-up call that compounding pharmacies pose a potentially dangerous even deadly source of disease if they are not properly regulated," Sen. Blumenthal told WCBS 880.

Blumenthal also cautioned that the Tri-State Area is not out of the woods just yet, as more cases continue arising.

"The incubation period may mean that there will be outbreaks of specific cases in our metropolitan area, so people should take precautionary steps to make sure that they begin treatment for meningitis if their physicians feel it's appropriate," Blumenthal told WCBS 880.

The steroid linked to the outbreak has been recalled, and health officials have been scrambling to notify anyone who may have received an injection of it.

The New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., which produced the steroid, is cooperating with investigators, according to health officials.

"We need to bolster the authority of the FDA and make sure it uses its existing authority more strenuously and stringently to stop the contamination of products at these compounding pharmacies by stronger oversight, inspection, regulation if necessary," Blumenthal told WCBS 880.

Blumenthal said the compound pharmacies appear to operate in a "regulatory black hole," which must be closed.

The CDC said Interventional Spine & Sports Medicine in Middlebury is the only Connecticut medical practice that received the steroids.

The state health department says 37 of the 39 patients who may have received the steroids have been contacted. The department said the practice reached out to the other two, and is working with the state to contact them directly.

The deadly outbreak of meningitis has been detected in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia, according to federal health officials.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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