The New England Compounding Center
The New England Compounding Center AFP photo

A spreading plague of fungal meningitis has infected more than 200 people in the United States, where at least 15 have died while thousands more are in danger. It seems to have been caused by contaminated steroid injections. 

Fourteen states have been affected by the outbreak, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, according to AFP.  

Tennessee was worst hit, and 53 cases were reported there, including six deaths, and in Michigan, there have been at lest 41 cases, followed by Virginia with 34.

Other states reporting cases include Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

The situation took a turn for the worse in a little more than a week. On October 6, the CDC had reported 64 cases, including seven deaths.

Almost 14,000 people in 23 states may have received contaminated doses of the steroid -- typically injected into the spine to treat back pain -- from the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, which has since shut down its operations and recalled all of its products.

Generally, meningitis symptoms appeared between one and four weeks after the injection, but in some cases they could only show up several months later, according to health officials.

The rare strain of the disease, which inflames the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, requires a lengthy hospital stay and intravenous anti-fungal medications. It is not contagious in this form.

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