Worried patients who received one of the tainted steroid injections linked to the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak continue to trickle into area hospitals for examinations.
While the numbers have slowed considerably, both Carilion Clinic and LewisGale Regional Health System report a small, but steady stream of emergency room visits related to the outbreak that has killed 28 and sickened 377 in 19 states.
So far this week, five patients have arrived at one of four LewisGale emergency rooms, said spokeswoman Joy Sutton. One person was admitted for treatment after a spinal tap tested positive for meningitis, she said.
At Carilion, about two patients a day arrive to be evaluated and most recently, they have not been testing positive for meningitis, spokesman Eric Earnhart.
As of today, public health officials have confirmed 46 cases and two deaths in Virginia linked to the outbreak. The official count, which has continued to grow, has lagged behind the numbers seen at area hospitals as health department officials verify that the cases are tied to the outbreak.
Officials have urged patients who received one of the tainted injections to seek medical attention for even the most minor symptoms, including a new or worsening headache and fever.
All infected patients got a preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate injection from one of three lots made by New England Compounding Center, in Framingham, Mass. In Virginia those shots were given to 693 patients at either Insight Imaging in Roanoke or New River Valley Surgery Center in Montgomery County between June 28 and Sept. 26.
Meanwhile, federal health investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting laboratory testing on the contaminated steroid shots and human samples from the patients identified with meningitis.
To date, the CDC has found 54 cases of fungi in human samples from people who received an injection from one of the tainted shots. The vast majority, 52 cases, were positive lab tests that show the patients were infected with a black mold called exserohilum rostratum. Testing of the medication, however, has revealed several different types of fungi organisms in the shots.