Here is an overview of meningitis epidemics in the United States.
Meningitis is caused by inflammation of the protective membranes (called meninges) that cover the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding these areas.
There are five types of meningitis: bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal and non-infectious.
Bacterial meningitis is contagious and comes in several different strains.
Viral meningitis is less serious and occurs more frequently than bacterial meningitis.
Fungal, viral, parasitic and non-infectious meningitis is not contagious and does not spread from person to person.
Fungal and parasitic meningitis are rare.
The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections, when a virus travels to the brain after entering the system through the nose or mouth.
Bacterial meningitis begins as a cold-like infection and is spread through respiratory and throat secretions, such as saliva and phlegm.
People contract fungal meningitis by inhaling the affected spores.
Contamination of food, water and soil can lead to parasitic meningitis.
Noninfectious meningitis can be caused by physical injury, cancer, systemic lupus, and certain medications.
Enteroviruses, the most common cause of viral meningitis, are most often transmitted from person to person through fecal contamination or through the respiratory secretions of an infected person.
Symptoms usually present quickly for some types of meningitis and include high fever and chills, mental status changes, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, headache, and stiff neck .
Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics.
Viral meningitis is treated with bed rest, plenty of fluids, and painkillers for body aches.
Fungal meningitis is treated with antifungal drugs.
Parasitic meningitis is less common and most cases have been fatal.
Vaccines are available to protect against certain types of viral and bacterial meningitis.
In 2012, a multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis associated with contaminated steroid injections was linked to the New England Compounding Center (NECC). The outbreak has infected 753 people in 20 states, killing 64 people. It is the deadliest meningitis epidemic in US history.
September 2012 – The CDC and FDA begin investigating an outbreak of fungal meningitis in several states.
September 26, 2012 – The The NECC is recalling three batches of steroid injections associated with the fungal meningitis outbreak.
October 6, 2012 – The NECC is expanding its recall to include all of its products.
December 21, 2012 – The NECC files for bankruptcy.
November 18, 2013 – The Senate approves a bill to improve the safety of compound drugs.
December 2013 – The NECC agrees to a preliminary settlement that would create a $100 million fund for victims of the outbreak.
December 16, 2014 – Fourteen people are charged in connection with the 2012 outbreak, including two, NECC chairman Barry Cadden and supervising pharmacist Glenn Chin, charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder. Other charges include racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, and the production and sale of “counterfeit” and mislabeled drugs.
March 22, 2017 – Cadden is convicted of racketeering, conspiracy to racketeer, mail fraud, and introducing mislabeled drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead. He is acquitted of 25 counts of second degree murder.
June 26, 2017 – Cadden is sentenced to nine years in prison.
January 31, 2018 – Chin is sentenced to eight years in prison.
July 9, 2020 – An appeals court upholds the convictions of Cadden and Chin. Their sentences are overturned and returned to the district court for re-sentencing.
July 7, 2021 – Cadden is sentenced to 14 years in prison.
July 21, 2021 – Chin is sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.