by Kimberly Allen RN
Meningitis occurs when there is an inflammation of the protective membranes known as the meninges that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria and fungus. Fungal meningitis is the least common of the three and is considered rare. However, recently there have been several cases of fungal meningitis reported in 9 states. This particular type of fungal meningitis is caused by contaminated steroid injections.
Fungal meningitis is not contagious and can not be transmitted from person to person, you can only contract it if you have been exposed to the contaminated medication. Fungal meningitis develops because the fungus has spread through the blood stream from somewhere else in your body to the central nervous system. Not everyone that is exposed to the fungus will necessarily develop fungal meningitis. It usually affects people with a weakened immune system, like people with HIV/AIDS, those that have had organ transplants and are taking anti rejection medications that suppress the immune system. Other people at risk are those that have autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and are on long term prednisone therapy.
The symptoms of fungal meningitis are the same as those for other types of meningitis. The most common symptoms you may experience are a high fever, severe headache, that is different from other headaches, and a stiff neck. If the infection is severe you may get confused and become very sensitive to light along with nausea and vomiting.
If you experience symptoms consisted with meningitis it’s important to contact your Dr, the sooner meningitis is diagnosed and treated the less chance there is for complications and the faster your recovery. Your Dr will take samples of blood and/or cerebral spinal fluid to test in order to determine the offending organism. Treatment depends on the type of organism that is causing the infection. fungal meningitis is treated with anti fungal medications. These medications need to be given intravenously for an extended period of time. The treatment is always started in the hospital then when the Dr has determined you are stable enough to receive the treatment at home you will be discharged with an IV to continue treatment at home. The length of time you require treatment depends on the severity of the infection. Also, people with compromised immune systems like people with diabetes, cancer or other conditions usually require longer treatment because their immune systems do not function well.
According to the CDC this outbreak of fungal meningitis is confined to only people that have received the contaminated medication known as methylprednisolone acetate. It was manufactured at a company in Massachusetts. The company has stopped all production at the entire facility and has recalled the three lots believed to be responsible. Officials have stated that there are approximately 75 medical facilities in 23 states that hve received medications from this facility and have listed them all on their web site. As of Saturday 10/06 the CDC reports that the death toll from this outbreak has risen to 7 and over 60 people have confirmed cases of this particular fungal meningitis. The source of the contamination is currently under investigation and the company is co operating with the health investigators.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.