Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 30, 2013

Maryland waited to alert general public on meningitis

Officials say they wanted to gather more information on steroid shot

WASHINGTON — Maryland health officials who learned of a potential link between a spinal steroid shot and cases of fungal meningitis waited nearly a week before alerting the public to the problem, according to a timeline provided by the state health department.

State epidemiologist David Blythe said health officials immediately alerted the clinics that were providing the injections, which in turn were responsible for contacting the patients who had received them. But he said they held off on notifying the general public until they could gather more information, such as determining a more precise connection between the shots and the meningitis cases.

“In the early days, it was not clear — certainly not to us — exactly what was going on,” Blythe said in an interview this week.

Blythe told a legislative committee in November that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the state on Sept. 27 that meningitis cases associated with a steroid shot for back pain had been identified in Tennessee, and that Maryland clinics had received the same medication. The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene contacted seven clinics to make sure they were aware of the recall, but it wasn’t until Oct. 3 that the public was advised in a news release of a “possible connection” between the injection and two meningitis cases in Maryland, including a fatal one. The Associated Press obtained a copy of his remarks.

Health officials coordinated the notification of about 1,700 people they initially thought might have received the injection.

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