When Fungal Meningitis Strikes
Imagine that you are relaxing at home on a Saturday afternoon with your family. You just finished making a pot of delicious chili and you are preparing to head out to a college football game, when your phone rings.
It is your doctor telling you that you need to get to the hospital right away because you received a contaminated steroid injection that can cause fungal meningitis. You pause and you try to process the information you're being told. "Wait…come again? What do you mean a contaminated injection?" "Ok, well the hospital is just down the street I can go right now." And the doctor says, "No, we need you to come to xyz hospital" More silence. "Doctor, that is a four hour drive for me." And the doctor replies back, "Yes I understand but this is a life or death situation, you must get here as soon as possible."
This is the gist of the conversation one of my patient's had with her doctor the other night before she drove four hours to be admitted to the hospital for treatment of possible fungal menigitis. Now, I have to admit I stopped watching the news about a year ago. It was getting too depressing and it always put me in a somber mood so I let it go.
When the charge nurse told me I was getting a patient who had "recieved one of those contaminated steroid injections", I had to quickly google it and see what was going on. I felt a little embarassed because I felt as a nurse I should've known about this before now.
Nonetheless it didn't take long to bring myself up to speed with what was going on. I just remember being relieved because I was told the patient didn't need to be in any special isolation.
If you aren't familiar with fungal meningitis it is very rare. It can cause the same symptoms as bacterial and viral meningitis but it is not contagious. Patients need to be treated in the hospital because they are started on intravenous anti-fungal treatments.
The affected patients had received a steroid injection called methylprednisolone acetate, which is used to treat pain and inflammation. The recalled batch had been contaminated by a fungus or basically mold.
This whole thing is so unfortunate. Most of these pateints had been getting steroid injections for chronic back pain now they have to deal with the symptoms of meningitis on top of that.
I'm sure we will see many new protocols and procedures put into place in medical facilities to prevent something like this from happening again.
According the Center for Disease Control(CDC), the potentially contaminated injections were given starting May 21, 2012. Symptoms that should prompt diagnostic evaluation include: fever, new or worsening headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, new weakness or numbness, increasing pain, redness or swelling of the injection site.
To date there are 91 cases of people who have contracted fungal meningits from contaminated steroid injection which pans across nine states.
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Tasha Nelson is a registered nurse who works the night shift at a large midwest hospital. She is also a total wellness enthusiast who firmly believes in the importance of taking care of yourself. A healthy mind, body, and spirit makes for a happy person. Isn't that what we all want?