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Meningitis Death Toll Hits 11 as Cases Continue to Mount

The fungus Aspergillus, pictured, has been found in some of the patients affected by the meningitis outbreak. (Image credit: CDC/Dr. Libero Ajello)

The number of deaths from fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections has risen to 11, up from the eight deaths reported yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today (Oct. 9).

Two of the new deaths were reported in Tennessee, bringing the number of fatalities there to six. The other was reported Michigan, bringing that state's total to three.

The number of reported cases of fungal meningitis rose to 119, from the 105 cases reported as of yesterday, the CDC said. Tennessee has the most cases, with 39.

For the first time, a case was reported in New Jersey, which now joins Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia in reporting cases of the fungal infection.

The deadly outbreak is linked to steroid injections produced by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. The sickened patients received injections into their spines as a treatment for lower back pain. [5 Meningitis Facts You Need to Know]

The center has voluntarily stopped distributing its products, and has shut down operations. An investigation of the facility revealed fungal contamination of its drugs, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The type of fungal meningitis in the outbreak cannot be spread from person to person, the CDC says. The number of cases in the fungal meningitis outbreak is still increasing because some people who received the contaminated injections before they were recalled could still develop symptoms — they can take up to four weeks to appear. In other cases, people may have fallen sick sometime in the past several months after receiving an injection, but doctors are now better able to identify the cause of their illness.

Symptoms of fungal meningitis include fever, new or worsening headache and a stiff neck. Some patients with the condition have had strokes.

Meningitis is a swelling or inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (which are called the meninges). Meningitis can also be caused by bacteria, viruses and brain surgery.

Pass it on: Deaths from a rare form of steroid-linked fungal meningitis have reached 11.

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Live Science Staff
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