• Meningitis Hits Tennessee Harder Than Other States
  • December 28, 2012
  • Law Firm: Lieff Cabraser Heimann Bernstein LLP - San Francisco Office
  • Although more patients in Maryland were exposed to the fungal meningitis outbreak than in Tennessee, illnesses in Tennessee more than quadrupled those reported from Maryland.

    An article published December 17th in The New England Journal of Medicine shows these and other large variations in meningitis attack rates, but provides no firm conclusion as to the reason. Tennessee had an attack rate of 10.9 infections per 100 people, compared with just 2.4 for Maryland. The national attack rate was 4.7. Tennessee and Michigan had attack rates more than double the national average.

    An epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted, "These attack rates are most certainly underestimates because this outbreak is certainly not over."

    Fortunately, the death rate so far is much less than CDC officials initially feared. As of December 10, 2012, that rate was 6 percent of those who became ill. Officials had worried it might go as high as 40 percent, based on outcomes from much smaller outbreaks of fungal meningitis traced to contaminated spinal injections. Efforts by the CDC, state health departments and health care facilities to contact patients for early diagnosis and treatment are thought to have saved many lives.

    The majority of the 20 to 50 new cases being reported each week are injection site infections. These present diagnosis challenges because pain is a symptom that patients already suffer.