NEW ORLEANS -- The deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis has now killed 12 people across the country.
Since the Sept. 25 recall, 138 people have gotten sick, after being exposed to the fungus through contaminated steroid shots.
The contaminated doses were believed to have been shipped to 23 states, but not to Louisiana or Mississippi.
So how do these steroid shots work, and should you be concerned?
Joe DeSalvo has chronic back pain. He is getting relief with his regular steroid injection from intervention pain physician Dr. Patrick Waring. He is confident that he has nothing to worry about even with the news of the meningitis outbreak.
"No doubt at all that I was in good shape," said DeSalvo.
Dr. Waring reassured him that no contaminated steroid medicine from the compounding pharmacy in question came to Louisiana and that he only uses steroid medicine commercially prepared from major pharmaceutical companies.
"These therapies, the epidural steroid injections, are highly effective, have been around a long time and have a long track record of safety," said Dr. Waring, who practices in Old Metairie.
Using x-rays from a fluoroscope, Dr. Waring sees that the medicine is going exactly in the right spot to reduce inflamed nerves. In 10 years and 50,000 cases, he has never seen a patient with fungal meningitis.
While Dr. Waring never uses this medication from a compounding manufacturer, there is a reason why doctors across the U.S. turn to the steroid medicine that is manufactured at compounding pharmacies. That's because nationwide there's a shortage of the steroids that are made at commercial places.
"This is not the first time. In 2002, there were five cases in North Carolina where contaminated steroid with fungal material was injected into the epidural space and there was one death in that event," said Dr. Waring.
He said his colleagues who use compounded steroid medications also have good safety records. And he said we should not be concerned with getting creams and other medications at our local compounding pharmacies.
But this case does bring into question the quality control in the manufacturing at big compounding companies.
Patients can ask doctors where the medicine was manufactured before they get injected.
And when pregnant women in labor get an epidural, it only contains anesthesia, no steroid medication.
The fungal infection is not contagious.