As patients are tested for meningitis, Newington clinic added to list
SOMERSWORTH — Meningitis is now a possibility for several patients of PainCare, the only New Hampshire clinic to have received tainted doses of steroid injections believed responsible for an outbreak of deadly fungal meningitis, the clinic owner said.
Dr. Michael O'Connell, owner and chief executive of the Somersworth-based clinic, said one patient is receiving antibiotics to treat the symptoms of meningitis; 55 have displayed some symptoms and received spinal-tap testing either at PainCare or a hospital emergency room, he said.
Still, state health officials report no confirmed cases of meningitis in New Hampshire.
“It's a frustratingly slow process,” O'Connell said.
He also said PainCare's Newington location used the tainted methylprednisolone for treatments. The clinic had already said that locations in Somersworth and Merrimack used the steroid, which is commonly injected into patients with back pain.
Federal health officials say there are 119 confirmed cases nationwide of fungal meningitis stemming from the contaminated batches, which were distributed by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
An estimated 13,000 people are at risk across the country, and 11 people have died.
New Hampshire state officials say more than 700 people received the contaminated injections, and PainCare has identified 742 patients to receive the injection.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 212 PainCare patients had been contacted, O'Connell said. Seventy-four percent showed no symptoms.
Symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
On Friday, the New Hampshire State Board of Pharmacy ordered the immediate suspension of New England Compounding Center's New Hampshire Non-Resident Pharmacy License for emergency reasons — “imminent threat to public health and safety,” according to a news release posted on www.nh.gov/pharmacy.
The state board took the action after receiving information about contaminated batches from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy, and the CDC, according to the release.
As of Sept. 26, New England Compounding has voluntarily recalled all products “currently in circulation that were compounded at and distributed from its facility,” suspended operations in Framingham and surrendered its pharmacy license in Massachusetts, according to the release on www.cdc.gov.
“This form of meningitis is not contagious. Several of these patients also suffered strokes that are believed to have resulted from their infection,” the website says.
Nonetheless, anyone who feels ill after receiving an injection since May 21 should seek medical assistance from their physician, according to the CDC.
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John Quinn may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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