CDC reports two more meningitis outbreak deaths; toll now 14

Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:25pm EDT

A sign for pharmaceutical compounding company New England Compounding Center (NECC), a producer of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate, is seen in Framingham, Massachusetts October 8, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

A sign for pharmaceutical compounding company New England Compounding Center (NECC), a producer of the steroid methylprednisolone acetate, is seen in Framingham, Massachusetts October 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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(Reuters) - Two more people have died from fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections, bringing the total to 14 deaths since the outbreak began last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on Thursday.

A total of 170 people have been stricken with a rare fungal meningitis in 11 states since the outbreak began, according to the latest CDC tally, up from 137 listed on Wednesday.

Florida reported its second death in the outbreak and Indiana its first death in the outbreak. The CDC also confirmed the first case in Idaho, the 11th state to report a case. Fungal meningitis cannot be transmitted from person-to-person.

The widening outbreak has alarmed U.S. health officials and focused attention on regulations of pharmaceutical compounding companies such as the one that produced the drugs, the New England Compounding Center Inc in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The steroid is used as a painkiller, usually to alleviate back pain, and could have been injected in some 13,000 patients, authorities have said.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Patients show a variety of symptoms including severe headaches and fever.

(Reporting by David Bailey and Tim Ghianni; Editing by Dan Burns)

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