Fungal meningitis outbreak still causing problems

St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor saw more fungal infection cases than any other hospital

DETROIT - Last fall's fungal meningitis outbreak from contaminated steroid injections are still causing problems for many affected patients, and most of those patients were right here in Michigan.

The outbreak was a multi-state problem, but St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor treated 193 fungal infection patients, which is more than any other hospital in the country.

Their experience in screening for problems before symptoms became severe is helping get patients treated sooner.

Patients like J.R. Mazure who was diagnosed with fungal meningitis. 

"I decided it was time to come to the clinic because I couldn't turn my neck or bend my neck down. I had an excruciating headache, he said"

The Michigan Department of Community Health says at least 249 people have been infected with illnesses including fungal meningitis as part of a national disease outbreak.

The clinic Mazure went to started to see other patients who had received the same tainted injections but didn't develop meningitis.

"We actually started seeing some patients that only presented with just infection at the injection site," said

Doctor Anurag Malani from St. Joseph Mercy Hospital performed one or more screening MRI's on 172 patients who had received contaminated injections.  Based on the results118 patients had no evidence of infection, 18 had equivocal results, and 36 had evidence of infection that required treatment.

"Twenty four required surgery and about 70 percent of the patients or 25 of them required two drug therapy," said Malani.

Meanwhile, Mazure says he is trying to stay positive, "I hope to stay alive and I hope to keep the ability to walk. I am hoping that we can cure this thing."

Fungal meningitis is the most serious potential complication but spinal infections are just as important to identify early. In addition to getting the best care for affected people, hopefully research like this will help us get ahead of any future outbreaks as well.

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