Meningitis outbreak may hit South Florida

WELLINGTON, Fla. - The Florida Department of Health and the Department of Business Regulation are urging doctors offices across the state to check the origin of their products used to treat patients.

If they're from the "New England Compounding Center," doctors are asked to stop using the products immediately.

The news comes after a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the outbreak was caused by tainted epidurals used to treat severe back pain. This is not the same type of epidural used in labor and delivery.

So far, 7 people have died from the infection. More than 60 people across the country have been infected, including 4 in Florida. Doctors fear more cases will follow.

This meningitis is not contagious and cannot be spread person-to-person. According to Dr. Donald Montgomery, an emergency room specialist at Wellington Regional Medical Center, "You would've had to have been administered this tainted methylpredisolone to catch this infection."

The CDC targeted eight medical offices across the state that have received batches of the epidural. One of those offices is the North County Surgery Center in Palm Beach Gardens.

State officials have also found which offices have received other products from the NECC. There are nearly two dozen of them in our viewing area. These offices have been asked to stop using the products right away.

If you may have had a procedure involving a tainted epidural, you're asked to be on alert for several symptoms. Dr. Montgomery says those symptoms include, "General malaise, not feeling well, a low grade temperature, headache, stiff neck."

Doctors say the onset of these symptoms can be slow, but once they hit they take over rapidly. If you feel any of the symptoms you're urged to see a doctor right away.

Doctors must test for meningitis with a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap. They say it's a scary procedure, but tell patients not to be afraid to be tested.

For more information on the meningitis outbreak, log onto the Centers for Disease Control website at cdc.gov.

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