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Meningitis Outbreak Kills 5, Sickens 30 in 5 States

Meningitis is a relatively uncommon infection but a recent outbreak of a fungal variety of the disease has health officials worried.

The infections are linked to steroids that are given for back pain and administered through a spinal injection. So far four people have died from the infection and more than 30 have been infected. Cases have been reported in five different states but more people could be affected.

The steroid was apparently contaminated with a fungus and batches of the drug have been shipped to 23 states, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a serious issue but there is some good news for the public.

This form of meningitis is not communicable, meaning infected people won't pass the disease to others. So far all the reported cases come from people who also received a lumbar epidural steroid injection for back pain.

Meningitis comes in several different forms since it happens when an infection gets into the cerebrospinal fluid and is not caused by a specific illness.

Most cases are either viral or bacterial and are easily spread from person to person. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe form of the disease and can lead to serious brain damage if it's not treated promptly.

Fungal meningitis is much less common and this particular strain of it is highly dangerous.

The Massachusetts pharmacy that is the suspected source of the outbreak has already shut down voluntarily, reports ABC News. The FDA has also recommended that health providers stop using products made by the pharmacy, named New England Compounding Center.

If you've received a spinal injection for pain recently, check with your doctor if the treatment came from the affected lot. Quick action is the key since this infection progresses fast.

For victims that have already fallen ill, treatment can take months and requires hospitalization, according to The New York Times. Those victims could be entitled to recover in a lawsuit against the drug makers. If that applies to you or someone you love, contact an attorney as soon as possible so you don't lose any time.

Because the disease doesn't spread between people, public health officials are focused on notifying patients who had injections with the infected drugs. More cases of infection are expected, reports ABC News.

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