More than 140 North Texans may have received tainted steroid injections

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by WENDY CORONA

WFAA

Posted on October 6, 2012 at 4:48 PM

FORT WORTH -- More than 110 people in Tarrant County received steroid injections tainted by a rare strain of meningitis, and the number of patients injected at a Dallas County clinic was still being calculated on Friday.

A pharmacy in Massachusetts sent the tainted medication to 75 clinics in 23 states, including the two in North Texas.

Health officials said Saturday that the death toll in the meningitis outbreak had reached seven across the U.S., with the latest cases confirmed in Minnesota and Ohio.

While there are no reported meningitis cases in Texas linked to the medication, it can take from one week to a month for the infection to develop, so that could change.

“We want to be very clear. This is not contagious," said Traci Bernard, President of Texas Health Harris Methodist in Southlake. "It's not a public risk."

However, there is a risk for those who received the tainted medication at Dallas Back Pain Management in Dallas and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Southlake. Officials know 114 people were given the injections at Harris Methodist Hospital.

The hospital president said this is a time to be aware.

“Our immediate response was to contact each one of our patients that had potentially received a dose of this medication and make them aware of the signs and symptoms that they needed to be alerted to,” Bernard said.

Symptoms include fever, headaches, stiff neck and nausea.

On Sept. 26, the manufacturer, New England Compounding Center, had the medication removed due to possible fungus contamination at the Massachusetts facility.

Along with phone calls, on Oct. 1, a certified letter was sent to each of the 114 Harris Methodist patients thought to have received the tainted epidural steroid injection.

At Dallas Back Pain Management, the number of patients receiving the medication is still being figured out. Early estimates have it ranging from possibly five to 30.

“We're encouraging those patients to contact Dallas Back Pain Management if they've been to the facility within the last two months,” said Zach Thompson with Dallas County Health & Human Services.

Bernard said the Tarrant County hospital is “continuing to monitor the patients that currently have received the injection.”

That early detection could be the difference-maker.

E-mail wcorona@wfaa.com

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