Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

October 10, 2012

Meningitis cases up to 25 with 3 deaths

HOWELL (AP) — The number of Michigan fungal meningitis cases from tainted pain medication has risen to at least 25, including a new third death, federal officials said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a memorial service was held for a 67-year-old Livingston County woman, Lilian Cary, who was infected with meningitis and died Sept. 30 after failing to recover from a stroke.

"Our loss and that of the others should be a wake-up call to our country. ... The apparent lack of suitable inspections should not have happened," Cary's husband, George Cary, told reporters at his house near Howell, 60 miles northwest of Detroit.

Like his wife, Cary, 65, received similar injections for back pain from possibly tainted steroids but still is awaiting the results of a spinal tap last weekend.

The number of Michigan cases has risen to 25 from 21, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State officials say the death reported Tuesday was a 78-year-old woman from Washtenaw County, and the other death was a 56-year-old woman from Genesee County.

A total of 119 cases and 11 deaths have been reported from 10 states.

Officials have tied the outbreak of the rare meningitis to steroid shots for back pain. The steroid was made by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts and shipped to four Michigan clinics, including Michigan Pain Specialists in Brighton, which treated the Carys. Clinic Dr. John Chatas said in a statement that two of Michigan's three deaths were patients at the facility.

Michigan Pain said it treated about 875 people with the recalled product, between Aug. 7 and Oct. 2. It has told patients to go to the emergency room at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti if they have symptoms, such as fever, stiff neck or a new headache.

"We at MPS express our deepest sorrow regarding this tragedy and are greatly saddened that some of our patients have been affected. ... Our primary concern is patient safety," the clinic said in a statement. "All injections were administered in a sterile environment under strict protocols. We had no reason to believe the medication we administered was tainted."

Cary, who stood on his front lawn alongside daughter Heather Andrus and stepdaughter Jill Bloser, said he recently spoke with Cary's doctor from the clinic as well as other staff members.

"They are devastated," he said. "And it's not just Lilian; it's all the other patients they are dealing with."

Cary said the family hasn't hired a lawyer, but declined to discuss it further. For now, he said, they are mainly focusing on working through their grief, celebrating Lilian's life and making sure she is not merely a statistic.

"Lilian was a 5-foot-3 little Brit and she had the attitude and spunk that just made her a remarkable person," he said. "Everyone that met her fell in love with her."

As for his own health, he said, he is feeling good now but is worried about the test results.

"My family is horrified at the thought that they could lose both their parents to the preventable outbreak," he said.

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