Meningitis spread nationwide through back pain medicine

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Normally we see a doctor to help us fell better, not worse.  But an issue at a Massachusetts drug lab has put patients at risk and 12 have already died from receiving epidural injections contaminated with fungal meningitis.

"It doesn't occur very often. In this particular case it has occurred more often because of the way it has been transmitted, in a source of medication. Normally it's very rare," said Columbus Commissioner of Health, Dr. Beverly Townsend.

So far, 137 confirmed cases have been identified in 10 states.  The only people affected by this outbreak are those who were treated by a doctor for chronic back pain and received a shot of steroids into their spine in the last two months.  People who are not receiving that type of care from a doctor have nothing to fear.

"It's not contagious, it's not spread from person to person like other types of bacterial meningitis. It's actually an infection around what we call the meningis, which is the covering of the brain and spinal cord.  Georgia has no confirmed cases at this time.  That's important because the incubation period can be anywhere from 42 days or more," said Townsend.

No cases have been reported in Alabama, and while no one in Georgia has contracted the disease yet, shipments of the contaminated drug have made it to facilities within state lines.  CDC officials are keeping a close eye on whether anyone may be at risk.