CDC Coordinates Response to Meningitis Outbreak

An article in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC) provides interesting perspective into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) work to coordinate the public health response to the recent fungal meningitis outbreak, including CDC’s action as the outbreak has evolved:

“The emergency operations center is bustling at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, where scientists recently learned that the fungus linked to a multistate outbreak of lethal meningitis is actually two fungi.

“That means the CDC must revise the treatment protocol and advise doctors in the 23 states with potential victims to switch to a broader spectrum of drugs.

“We’re still discovering what we’re up against,” said Dr. Benjamin Park, who is leading the CDC investigation.”

While fungal meningitis is non-contagious, it can cause brain damage, stroke or death if not treated in a timely manner. As of October 11, according to the CDC, there were 170 confirmed cases in 11 states and 14 deaths caused by the rare illness, which in this instance CDC has linked to steroids developed at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy. Patients received injections of contaminated steroids at healthcare facilities around the country.

The article also highlights how CDC officials are helping state and local health workers identify infected patients and connect them with appropriate treatment:

“The emergency operations center has marshaled over 100 workers..."

“They are gathering information from health agencies in the affected states, honing treatment options and helping local health workers contact the 13,000 people who may have been infected. In the CDC’s labs, workers are extracting DNA from samples of spinal fluid and running tests to determine who is infected.”

CDC experts are on the frontlines every day protecting Americans from health and safety threats, from this evolving meningitis outbreak to costly chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. CDC scientists must be ready to respond when called upon 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

At the CDC Foundation, we’re proud to support our CDC colleagues who are working around the clock to protect people and save lives.

Charles Stokes is president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.