HEALTH

Meningitis update: Virginia reports 33 cases

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ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - An autopsy confirmed a Salem man who received a spinal injection for relief from a pinched nerve died Sept. 18 of acute fungal meningitis as the suspected number of cases in the state inched up Friday to 33.

Douglas Wingate, 47, was infected with the rare form of meningitis as the result of a spinal injection, said Tracie Cooper, district administrator of the Roanoke office of the state medical examiner.

While state public health officials have not identified Wingate as one of hundreds who received a possibly tainted batch of steroids, they have acknowledged one death in Virginia as a result of a wider outbreak.

The 33 suspected meningitis cases, including three West Virginians who sought treatment in Virginia, are among 689 patients who received injections of a possibly tainted batch of steroids typically used to relieve back pain.

Virginia public health officials said two clinics, in Roanoke and Christiansburg, are the only medical facilities in the state to have received the now-recalled steroid from a Massachusetts supplier.

The state Department of Public Health and the outpatient clinics have made repeated attempts to track down all of the Virginia patients who received the steroid.

Federal health officials said they've tracked down more than 90 percent of the roughly 14,000 people who may have received contaminated steroid shots.

They're urging anyone with early symptoms of potentially deadly meningitis to seek help fast.

Of the 170 people sickened in the outbreak, all but one have the rare fungal meningitis, and 14 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Wingate had an epidural steroid injection on Sept. 6 at Insight Imaging in Roanoke, where the vast majority of the Virginia injections occurred. Sharon Wingate was told Thursday of the autopsy's finding for her husband, her attorney, Scott Sexton, said.

"Just a few short weeks ago, she had a living, breathing partner, and they were headed out to go on a 25th wedding anniversary cruise, and then she buried him," Sexton said.

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