91 Sick in Meningitis Outbreak

    This undated photo made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a branch of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. The fungus blamed for causing a meningitis outbreak in five states is widely distributed indoors and outdoors, but only very rarely makes people sick. People inhale aspergillus fungus all the time without any problem. It's nearly impossible to avoid, found in such places as decaying leaves, trees, grain, other plants, soil, household dust, ducts for air conditioning and heating, and building materials. The fungus can also cause skin infections if it enters a break in the skin. The meningitis outbreak is linked to the fungus being accidentally injected into people as a contaminant in steroid treatments. It's not clear how the fungus got into the medicine. (AP Photo/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Libero Ajello)

    Libero Ajello / CDC via AP Photo

    The latest meningitis outbreak has left seven people dead and 91 sick, and now federal health officials have warned that New England Compounding Center sold 17,676 vials of an unsafe steroid to pain clinics in 23 states. A shortage of steroids has led doctors to turn to compounding companies, which create batches of drugs on their own and often at a discount. In 2011 alone, 2.5 million Medicare patients received such steroids. One expert warned, “The Food and Drug Administration has more regulatory authority over a drug factory in China than over a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.”

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