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Andover Woman May Be First Mass. Case Linked To Meningitis Outbreak

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ANDOVER (CBS) – A 71-year-old Andover woman may be Massachusetts’ first case of fungal meningitis linked the embattled Framingham pharmacy company at the center of a deadly nationwide outbreak, WBZ-TV has learned.

The victim, who spoke to WBZ-TV on Friday, says she received steroid shots for back pain at at a clinic in Lawrence. She was hospitalized in early October. A couple of weeks after her hospitalization, she began to experience severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting and was forced to return to the hospital. The woman, a grandmother who is not being identified, was hospitalized for seven days at Lawrence General Hospital, but has since been released.

Her discharge papers indicate a diagnosis of “fungal meningitis.” She tells WBZ-TV she is still extremely tired.

The lot in question is not one of the initial drug lots tied to the outbreak. The drug is Methylprednisolone Acetate.

The woman says a nurse at Lawrence General Hospital told her the medication she was given was part of an October 3rd recall by the New England Compounding Center.

When it was recalled, “the voluntary recall has been initiated due to the potential for foreign particulate matter within the vial,” investigators said.

David Kibbe from the Department of Public Health tells WBZ-TV they are investigating the Andover woman’s case.

“We are working in collaboration with the CDC as part of their investigation into this case, which is not a confirmed case of fungal meningitis at this time,” Kibbe said. “We have also been in close contact with the hospital where the patient was treated. While Massachusetts did not receive any of the contaminated lots from NECC, we take all potential cases seriously and this remains under investigation. We wish the patient well in her recovery.”

A spokeswoman for Lawrence General Hospital also tells WBZ-TV that she can confirm Lawrence General Hospital has not had any positive diagnostic specimen results for fungal meningitis related to the contamination of NECC or Ameridose products.

Dr. Rami Rustum is the director of Merrimack Valley Pain Management where the woman received her shots. He says they contacted any patients exposed to NECC drugs in October when they were notified of the recall.

He had been told none of his patients tested positive for fungal meningitis. Officials told him the Andover woman’s case was not linked to NECC.

“The spinal fluid analysis was processed at one of the CDC labs and that confirmed that there was no fungal meningitis,” Rustum told WBZ.

He plans to follow up. In the meantime, he advises patients not to panic and to see a doctor if they believe they have symptoms of meningitis.

To date, there have been no confirmed cases of fungal meningitis in Massachusetts, and health officials say the lots most implicated in the outbreak were not distributed in this state.

Nationwide, there have been 33 deaths and 480 cases of fungal meningitis reported in 19 states including New Hampshire.

WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk and Michael Rosenfield contributed to this report.

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