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Meningitis outbreak causes concern

Local health care providers say no worries in this area

Though concern is growing nationwide on the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis, no cases have been reported to date in Illinois, according to Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Locally, representatives of Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton and St. Margaret’s Health in Spring Valley have responded to concerns of area residents about the meningitis outbreak.

In a statement issued Monday, Rex Conger, president/CEO of Perry Memorial Hospital, said the hospital wanted to calm any local concerns regarding the national reports about patients who may have received a steroid injection linked to the recent outbreak of a form of meningitis, with that medication coming from a Massachusetts pharmacy. Perry Memorial has never purchased steroid medications from the pharmacy in question, Conger said.

“The hospital has received many calls from concerned patients who have recently received steroid injections at Perry,” Conger said. “We wanted to share this information with the public in order to ease the minds of everyone in our community.”

On Tuesday, Linda Burt, vice president of marketing for St. Margaret’s Hospital, said St. Margaret’s has also received lots of calls from people about the meningitis outbreak. As with Perry Memorial, St. Margaret’s does not use the Massachusetts pharmacy in question, she said.

Though no Illinois cases of meningitis associated with the use of epidural steroid injection pain medication have been reported in Illinois, the investigation is ongoing, Hasbrouck said. The Illinois Department of Public Health has alerted physicians and health practitioners around the state about the meningitis cases and the need to stop using the recalled product, which is typically used to relieve chronic pain for conditions such as herniated disks and spine inflammation, he said.

The initial investigation shows the recalled product was distributed to 75 facilities in 23 states, including Illinois. The Illinois health provider receiving the recalled medicine is a Chicago-based pain management center, Hasbrouck said.

According to a joint investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, possible fungal contamination has been found in epidural steroid injection medication called methlprednisolone acetate. All of the infected patients received this medication produced at the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts pharmacy has voluntarily expanded its recall to not only the drug in question but also to all products currently in circulation which were compounded at and distributed from its Framingham facility.

“While there is no indication at this time of any contamination in other NECC products, this recall is being taken as a precautionary measure,” the company said in a statement.

The CDC has said it’s only aware of infections associated with the three lots initially recalled by NECC. Because the product has been recalled, people receiving injections in the future should not be at risk from this product, the CDC stated.

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