Update: Meningitis investigation reaches Arkansas

(KATV) Little Rock - The numbers are up again in the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak. The CDC say 19 people have died, that's up four from Tuesday.

The state health department doesn't think Arkansans have been affected. But we are finding out that the company under investigation has shipped medicine to area hospitals in the state.

How the contamination happened hasn't beenreleased, but what may surprise you is that the mold at the source of all thisactually lives around us. It's an environmental mold. The type of fungal meningitis we're talking about is not contagious like the more common forms. This one is caused by a fungus often found in our environment. The good news is that it can be treated; it's just hard to treat.

Not one of the more than 17,000 vials of injectable steroid at the center of the meningitis outbreak has been shipped to Arkansas.

Dirk Haselow with the Arkansas Department of Health explains, "But when the CDC and FDA went and visited the New England Compounding Center, they saw issues of concern and they decided to recall all of their products out of an abundance of caution."

The company serves all 50 states and makes nearly a thousand products; about 100 products have been shipped between six hospitals and 2 clinics in Arkansas.

"No cases have been associated with illness. No cases have been identified in Arkansas." Dirk Haselow says they received the details about the expanded recall in the past 24 hours and they're taking preventative measures and asked the hospitals to pull the medicine off their shelves and determine which patients have been exposed.

The environmental mold under the scope of this outbreak is everywhere; Haselow says it's hard to get rid of completely. "It's not a huge surprise that products can get contaminated with it. It's different from most other kinds of meningitis in a couple ways. It's not transmissible from person to person and fungi are very different from bacteria or viruses. They are very hardy. They're difficult to treat. So people who get these infections will need and lengthy antibiotic therapy and if they get an infection in the joint. They might need surgery to wash out the joint."

The anti-inflammatory injectable medicine was shipped to 23 states, but again, not Arkansas. If you went to a doctor here in the state and have been exposed to another medication produced by the company, your doctor will call you.

The products the CDC, FDA and the department of health are concerned date back to May 21.

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - A company under investigation in connection with the outbreak of fungal meningitis shipped products to hospitals in Arkansas.

According to Dr. Nate Smith with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), they are in close contact with the FDA and CDC to identify all of those products and the hospitals they were shipped to in order to get all of them off the shelves and make sure none have been used. He said in a press release, though, that it is just a precautionary measure at this point.

"Right now, we don't have any clear association with any human illnesses, but the FDA is taking action out of concern that there could be additional infections," Smith said.

The compounding pharmacy, New England Compounding Center, is based in Massachusetts.

The cases of meningitis that have been identified as part of the multistate outbreak investigation were found to be caused by fungi that are common in the environment but rarely cause meningitis. This form of meningitis is not contagious.