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The outbreak of spinal meningitis, caused by steroid injections contaminated with fungus, aren’t proving easy to treat.

The particular fungus causing the outbreak, a black mold called Exserohilum rostratum, rarely infects humans, and even then only those with very weakened immune systems. This outbreak, however, has lead to hundreds of infections because of its direct injection into a vulnerable spot.

Voriconazole is capable of defeating the fungus, but besides the side-effects it causes delivering the right amount for treatment isn’t easy—some people could easily get too much, and others may not get enough, and only trial and error on an individual basis can decide. Even after figuring that out, there’s no treatment protocol—how long will have to depend on close monitoring of meningitis symptoms (but will take at least a few months).

Healthy or weakened immune system, people who received the infected injections have been sitting ducks for growing a spinal infections which develops into meningitis as the fungus grows. The good news is that the window is closing—the majority of cases will have progressed to detectable meningitis symptoms (stiff neck, headache, fever) by now. A few rare cases could spring up in the coming months, but in general the number of people diagnosed should soon level off.

How do you feel about the meningitis outbreak?

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