A couple dozen Minnesota patients have been urged to get a medical evaluation for possible meningitis infections.
The patients all received injections of a steroid that has been linked to 42 illnesses and five deaths in seven states. There have been no confirmed infections in Minnesota yet.
Two Twin Cities-based pain facilities were the only providers in Minnesota to receive steroids from the contaminated lots. Marsha Thiel, CEO of Medical Advanced Pain Specialists and its affiliated Minnesota Surgery Center, said her staff has contacted 100 patients and only a handful have possible meningitis symptoms.
"We have a very low threshold for the symptoms that are encouraging us to send the patients for further follow up. And we have a few, not many," she said.
Another 650 patients who got steroid injections at the clinics are being contacted by the Minnesota Department of Health. Spokesman Buddy Ferguson said the agency has identified another 20 or so people with symptoms. But he said there could be more as the agency continues working through its list.
Ferguson said it's not surprising that some might be experiencing symptoms, but he said that may not mean that they have the disease.
"It would really be premature at this point to be regarding these as possible or suspect cases," Ferguson said. "We need to do some additional work and only when we've done that would we be able to conclude that we actually had cases of fungal meningitis that we're dealing with."
Meningitis symptoms can be confused with other conditions, said Ferguson.
"It's not surprising that we're going to have patients who have symptoms. They are being treated for, in some cases, some fairly serious physical problems," Ferguson said.
Fungal meningitis symptoms include headache, fever, sensitivity to light, a stiff neck or pain at the injection site.