Hit Me With Your Best Shot! Wait, Maybe Not

Marianne Caesar
National and World News Writer

As Fall is fading to Winter, the constant pressure of classes and homework are not the only affliction upon students. Day after day of carrying textbooks, laptops, and work gear can create both neck and back ache over time. You might want to reconsider the distribution and the amount of weight you carry, especially due to the new outbreak of meningitis, originating from a Massachusetts drug company.

Meningitis results when the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord are infected. According to the Control  for Disease Center, there have been 137 confirmed cases of meningitis originating from epidural steroid injections, utilized to reduce back and neck pain. These injections were made and distributed throughout the United States by the New England Compounding Center, located in Framingham, Massachusetts. The injections were first given to clients as early as May 21, 2012, only to be recalled by the center on September 26th. The medication in question, Methylprednisolore Acetate, was found to be contaminated with the fungi Exserohilum and Aspergillus. This resulted in the spread of fungal meningitis, the least common form observed. Meningitis is not contagious in this form, yet poses dangerous health risks.

Federal agents on Tuesday raided the Massachusetts pharmacy linked to a widespread meningitis outbreak that has killed 16 people and sickened more than 200 others.

Thus far, the outbreak has brought forth 12 deaths and 137 recorded cases. Tennessee ranks highest in incidence. Usually this ailment is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. The contagious bacterial form is obtained by coming into contact with bacteria pre-existing in your respiratory tract or through infection within the ears or sinuses, according to M.D. Robert Kaprowicz. Fungal meningitis is highly rare and most often seen in individuals with autoimmune diseases, such as cancer, or in those undergoing surgical procedures.

Individuals are at an increased risk if suffering from severe headaches, neck stiffness, fever, nausea, frequent imbalance and slurred speech, as reported by journalist Denise Grady from the New York Times.  If these symptoms occur frequently at a continual rate, individuals should go to the emergency room for proper testing. The only way to diagnose meningitis is through a lumbar puncture, also known as a tap for spinal fluid. Treatment includes an intravenous supply of antibiotics, often taking place in the Intensive Care Units of medical facilities. While individuals can survive this form of illness, the long-term results can include deafness, seizures, paralysis, and even loss of limbs.

Prevention for outbreaks of meningitis are handled by limiting close contact with infected individuals, and by avoiding exposure to respiratory tract secretions. This is one reason that students must have their meningitis vaccination before beginning college. This decreases the risk of exposure within dormitories. Another method of prevention includes the increase of Federal Drug Administration involvement within pharmacy compounds.

“Compounding for drug distribution has become a larger focus for the FDA since the early 1990s,” according to Professor Gary Dykstra, of the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy. Inspections have been highly limited and governmental laws have continued to support these private businesses. Such support has granted opportunity for 200 recorded events permitting poor product  manufacturing, highlighting the production of 71 compounded products, as observed by the FDA.

Overall, remember fungal meningitis is not contagious, yet is still very dangerous. Acknowledge it is permissive to question exactly where your medications might be coming from. It might be wise to take the extra walk to unload a few books, and it might just save your life.