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354 cases in fungal meningitis outbreak; 25 deaths

Fungal meningitis and other infections linked to contaminated injection drugs continued to rise Monday, with 354 cases in 19 states, with Rhode Island reporting its first case. Deaths held steady at 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Cases of fungal meningitis, stroke presumed to be caused by the infection or other central-nervous system infections climbed to 347. Another seven infections have been reported in people who received mold-tainted injections in joins such as the hip, knee, elbow or shoulder.

The contaminated drugs were produced by the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass., which has recalled all of its products and been stripped of its pharmacy license.

Food and Drug Administration officials released new documents last week showing that company officials documented mold and bacteria at several sites in the company’s clean rooms dating from January through September.  Massachusetts health officials also documented contamination and problems with the steam sterilization equipment known as an autoclave. In addition, NECC was dispensing vast quantities of sterile drugs without having the individual patient prescriptions required for compounding pharmacies.

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