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Friday, October 12, 2012 - SJH Update on Meningitis Outbreak

Today, the New Jersey Department of Health is reporting to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) two new presumptive cases—for a total of four—linked to an ongoing, multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis associated with potentially contaminated steroid medication.

All four patients are Cumberland County residents. Three are hospitalized and recovering at South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center in Vineland and a fourth is being monitored by the hospital as an outpatient. The three hospitalized patients are being treated intravenously with anti-fungal medication after receiving a steroid injection from one of the lots of medication recalled by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. The company has suspended its operations.

The two new presumptive cases include a 59-year-old man who received an injection on September 12 at Premier Orthopaedic Associates in Vineland and was admitted to the South Jersey Regional Medical Center on October 9 with headaches and fever. The fourth patient is a 52-year-old female who received an injection in August at the SJH Regional Medical Center. She visited the Emergency Department on October 9 with headaches and back and neck pain, and is being closely monitored as an outpatient by the hospital.

South Jersey Healthcare is working with the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health, along with our local departments of health, to monitor and care for any patients who are being evaluated or who have been identified by the Department of Health as having presumptive fungal meningitis. Under patient privacy laws, we cannot provide any further details at this time about any specific patient. However, we will continue to partner with the CDC and Department of Health to continue monitoring these patients and provide updates as appropriate.

A total of 196 SJH patients received the medication from the identified lots. 107 of those patients received it as an epidural injection, which potentially puts them at risk for fungal meningitis. These numbers have increased due to expanded criteria set forth by the CDC, requesting that facilities identify patients who received the medication dating back to July 1. A total of 58 patients in our community have been referred for a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.

During this situation, we have worked closely with our partners at the County, City of Vineland and New Jersey departments of health. Because this is a public health issue, we are collaborating with the state health department and CDC, and therefore we will continue to follow their lead on the release of any further specific details.

SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of southern New Jersey residents.