Lawsuit may be 1st from meningitis outbreak

Published 12:21 pm Friday, October 12, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota woman who may have received tainted steroid injections blamed for the nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis sued the drug seller on Thursday, though she hasn’t been diagnosed with the rare illness.

The federal lawsuit appears to be the first stemming from the outbreak, though many lawsuits are expected.

The suit alleges that Barbe Puro suffered headaches and nausea after receiving injections in her neck to ease chronic back pain in September, but she believed the symptoms weren’t abnormal. She said she was later contacted by the Minnesota Department of Health, informing her that she may have received contaminated shots sold by the New England Compounding Center.

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Officials have identified the Massachusetts-based company as the source of steroid shots suspected in the fungal meningitis outbreak that has sickened about 170 people and been linked to the deaths of 14 others.

Puro, of suburban Minneapolis, underwent a painful spinal tap to test for the illness over the weekend, said her attorney, Jeff Montpetit. Results are pending.

Center spokesman Andrew Paven declined comment Thursday, saying the company hadn’t seen the lawsuit. Paven said the lawsuit was the first he’d heard about.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the company for Puno’s injuries, along with class-action status to cover other people who were injured after receiving the potentially tainted medication in Minnesota.

“People have to be proactive and take care of themselves. Before these death toll numbers go any higher, people need to get checked,” Montpetit said Thursday.

Federal health officials have tracked down 12,000 of the roughly 14,000 people who may have received contaminated shots. Doctors are warning that patients will need to keep watch for symptoms of the deadly infection for months.

2 meningitis patients released

MINNEAPOLIS — Health officials say two of the three Minnesotans who developed meningitis linked to tainted steroids have been released from the hospital and the third is expected to go home soon.

No new cases of meningitis have been confirmed in Minnesota since last week when officials said three women in their 40s had contracted meningitis.

The state Department of Health is waiting for additional test results. Health officials say more than 800 Minnesotans may have been exposed to the tainted steroids when they received spinal injections at two Twin Cities clinics, Medical Advanced Pain Specialists and the Minnesota Surgery Center. New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., recalled about 17,000 vials of the steroid after investigators found three lots were contaminated by a fungus that can cause meningitis.