Third person dies from Florida meningitis outbreak

ST. PETERSBURG — State health officials said today that a third person in Florida has died after contracting meningitis from a tainted steroid medication.

John Armstrong, Florida's surgeon general and secretary of health, said that the 78-year-old Marion County man received the injection on Aug. 28, noticed an onset of meningitis symptoms on Oct. 6 and died earlier this week.

Also, Armstrong added, a 13th Floridian has contracted meningitis due to the contaminated steroid.

Meningitis cases in Florida and nationwide have grown in recent weeks due to the steroid injection used for back pain. Federal health officials said the tainted medicine came from one place — the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center. How the steroid was contaminated is unclear and is under investigation.

Now, authorities are looking at whether other medicines from the compounding pharmacy are safe.

Armstrong said that the state has identified 260 health care facilities in Florida that have received medicine from the pharmacy since January. State officials have called those places and urged them to contact any patients who might have been treated with the pharmacy's medicine — especially those treated with injections for eye or heart surgeries.

However, Armstrong added that "at this time, the only NECC medication implicated in infection is the steroid used for epidural back injections."

Eight Florida health care facilities received the tainted steroid; two of those facilities did not administer the steroid at all. Of the 1,038 people in Florida who received the steroid injections, all but 11 have been contacted by state health officials.

Of those, six have been identified as living in Alabama.

People in 15 states have been affected by the tainted medicine from a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy. Federal health officials say 19 people have died. A total of 240 people nationwide have contracted meningitis.

Meanwhile, another Marion County meningitis victim has filed the first lawsuit in Florida against the pharmacy. Vlinda York's attorney filed a negligence and liability lawsuit this week.

York was treated at the Marion Pain Management Center with two tainted steroid injections in August and then contracted meningitis. She has been hospitalized for nearly a month.

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