Tainted Steroid Shots and Fungal Meningitis: Are You at Risk?

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In late July, I broke down and went to our local surgery center for a steroid shot in my back. It had been a long time coming. A back injury in late 2010 had taken me to the chiropractor, through physical therapy and left me with this last ditch effort before surgery was thrown out on the table. I had all of the hope in the world that this would be the answer, that I would be able to start running, exercising and picking up my children again -- without pain, without feeling helpless and hopeless. I put it off for so long -- months and months -- because the whole process scared me. However, the results were above and beyond what we expected... except for a random migraine accompanied by nausea and vomitting five days after the procedure. My doctor said it was a side effect, and I survived. But the news of a fungal infection in steroid shots causing meningitis made me wary.


Five people are now dead and over 30 have been confirmed sick from the rare form of fungal meningitis. When the news first broke, I felt I was in the clear. I don't live in Tennessee, where the news was originating. Then, as these things seem to do, it "spread." According to ABC News:

Roughly 75 clinics in 23 states that received the recalled lots have been instructed to notify all affected patients.

"If patients are concerned, they should contact their physician to find out if they received a medicine from one of these lots," said Dr. Benjamin Park of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding that most of the cases occurred in older adults who were healthy aside from back pain.

I sighed. Ohio was one of those 23 states in which the infected steroid was shipped. "You've got to be kidding me," I thought. This is the reward I get for finally going through with what the doctors were saying would really help me? As I was more than one month out, I figured I was not really affected, that I just had some random, bad headache reaction to the shot. But what about my paternal grandmother and my maternal great-grandmother who also had the shot? Were we all at risk? Logically, I figured, no. But that voice in my head wouldn't stop talking, so I called my pain clinic.

It turns out that my clinic has never purchased any drug from that particular supplier. Whew. More calls resulted in the same news for my grandmothers. We're all in the clear. And, of course, so are you if you haven't had a steroid shot. While other forms of meningits (viral and bacterial) are extremely contagious, this kind is not. You're only at risk if you had a tainted steroid shot which you figured was going to make you feel better.

But what about you? If you had a spinal steroid shot during the time frame of July through September, go ahead and call your health care provider. They're supposed to be contacting you if there's a possibility you have been exposed, but trust me, it does your over-thinking brain good to call and get confirmation that you're not walking around like a ticking time bomb with some super serious, super rare form of meningitis. My nurse wasn't impatient or rude; she understood exactly why I was calling and said she would have done the same.

Did you have a steroid shot during the potentially infectious time period? Have you contacted your provider? Do you think things have been handled well?


Family/Moms & Events Section Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land.

Photo Credit: jill_a_brown.


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