Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
Tainted meds not at local hospital
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Memorial Hospital in Martinsville did not receive any of the medication involved in the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis cases, and no one who received steroid injections at the hospital is considered at risk of contracting the disease, according to an email from Ryan Shepherd, director of public relations/information and marketing.
Patients who received cortisone shots at the hospital in Martinsville are not at risk of contracting the disease, according to the email.
Only two facilities in Virginia — Insight Imaging and the New River Valley Surgery Center — received the tainted medication, the email stated. Both facilities have kept accurate records about patients who received the doses of steroids.
“A fair number of people in” the Martinsville-Henry County area were treated at one facility or the other, according to Dr. Gordon Green, director of the West Piedmont Health District. However, “I can’t give out those numbers.”
There is no person-to-person spread of the illness, Green said.
“So, if someone is living with someone who had one of these injections, hopefully” the person who had the injection will not develop the illness, he said. “But even if they do, they won’t spread it to other family members.”
“People who had similar procedures done at the local hospital or doctors offices don’t have anything to worry about,” Green said, and noted that anyone who had an injection at either of the two places that received the product has been contacted.
The two facilities made an effort to contact all their patients who received the product, the email stated.
Anyone who did not respond to contact attempts by phone or letter were visited at their home, the email stated.
Local health departments also have the contact information of those who may be considered at risk, and also are working to contact those that were treated at one of the two facilities receiving the medication.
“The health department is contacting all of those involved once a week, and we will probably do that for about eight more weeks” to follow their conditions, Green said.
Most of those treated at the New River facility have been followed really closely “because that’s a much smaller number” of people, Green said.
According to online information, the New River Valley Surgery Center is located in Christiansburg, while Insight Imaging has several locations in Virginia, including Roanoke.
The largest number of patients being followed by health professionals locally are from Insight Imaging, Green said.
Those suspected of being at risk have been contacted first by Insight Imaging and then by the health department, he said.
“People who have had a cortisone injection elsewhere don’t have anything to worry about from this perspective” of developing meningitis as a result, he said.
Experience has taught health professionals that symptoms of the illness generally show up between seven and 50 days, Green said. “Unfortunately, we are learning as we go along,” he said, and added that health professionals do not have studies of fungus being injected into epidural spaces “to see what happens.”
Local hospital officials will be in contact with local health departments on a weekly basis, the email stated.
The role of local health officials is to help those who arrive at the hospital and have a history of treatment at either facility and symptoms that may include: fever, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, weakness, numbness, slurred speech, swelling or pain, redness, warmth or swelling at the injection site, according to the email.
The email encourages anyone who experiences those symptoms to seek prompt medical attention by seeing a physician or going to the emergency department right away.
Green also suggested that anyone who experiences those symptoms and has been treated at one or the other facility to “get in touch with a physician and say, ‘I’m on list of people’ treated with the product and describe the symptoms. The doctor will then determine how to proceed.”
As of Monday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 23 cases of suspect fungal meningitis, including one death. Twenty cases are residents of southwest Virginia; three are residents of West Virginia who received treatment at one of the Virginia facilities.
The remaining cases are under investigation, the email stated.