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Up to 5 Illinois recipients of recalled drug tested for meningitis

A vial injectable steroids from New EnglCompounding Center is displayed Tennessee Department Health Nashville Tenn. Monday Oct. 8 2012. The

A vial of injectable steroids from the New England Compounding Center is displayed in the Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. The CDC has said an outbreak of fungal meningitis may have been caused by steroids from the Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. (AP Photo/Kristin M. Hall)

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Updated: November 10, 2012 6:15AM

The only Illinois provider of recalled steroid injections linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis says five of its patients have exhibited symptoms of the disease, but there still are no confirmed cases in the state.

The patients who showed “remotely possible” signs of meningitis went to hospitals for further testing, said Dr. Randolph Chang, Illinois medical director for APAC Centers for Pain Management.

Only one test remains pending for results. The rest have been negative.

“As soon as APAC pain clinics in the Chicago area were informed of the recalled methylprednisolone acetate produced by New England Compounding Center, APAC immediately stopped using this product,” Chang said.

APAC — with two clinics in Chicago and one in Westchester — has contacted 150 patients who received the now-recalled back pain drug at one of its clinics since July 1, Chang said.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that there are now 105 confirmed cases in nine states and eight people have been killed as a result of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated steroid pain injections, supplied by New England Compounding Center in Massaschusetts.

The states with reported cases are: Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

The steroid back shots were sent to 23 states, including Illinois.

New England Compounding has issued a voluntary recall of all of its products, saying it was taking “an abundance of caution,” in a statement.

The Food and Drug Administration had previously told health professionals not to use any products distributed by the center.

It is not yet known exactly how many people may have been affected, though CDC officials on Monday said there’s an estimated 13,000 people who received the steroid injections for back pain from May 21 to September.

Meningitis is caused by the inflammation of protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, CDC says.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious as are its more common viral and bacterial counterparts.

A hotline for APAC pain clinic patients has been established to respond to patient concerns: 708-699-5402.

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