By the numbers

Fungal infectionsCases: 678Deaths: 44States: 19South Carolina: 2 cases reported, no deaths.Source: CDC

Another person in the Charleston area has been infected by a fungus that investigators have linked to a tainted steroid tied to the deaths of 44 people nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that South Carolina now accounts for two of the 678 cases of fungal infection in 19 states associated with the steroid methylprednisolone acetate.

South Carolina’s first infection linked to the steroid, described as a probable case of fungal meningitis, was reported in late October by InterveneMD of North Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

“The second S.C. case reported by the CDC was a patient of InterveneMD,” said Dale Aren, a spokesman for InterveneMD.

“While we cannot reveal any personally identifying health information regarding this patient, the individual is under the supervision of medical specialists who are providing and managing care,” Aren said.

Aren said in an emailed statement that the cause of the infection is unknown at this time, but it is not believed to be meningitis.

In the first case, a patient at the local clinic received a spinal injection of the steroid from New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. Amid a federal investigation, the company shut down, surrendered its license and recalled all its products. The patient was hospitalized for treatment.

“We have no further information on the first patient identified in October as having a probable case of fungal meningitis. That patient was hospitalized for a few days, improved and released several months ago and was treated as an outpatient and evidenced clinical improvement,” Aren said.

The newly reported case of fungal infection linked to the steroid is described by the CDC as “paraspinal/spinal infection,” which can include a difficult-to-manage abscess at the site of a spinal injection, infected vertebrae and the inflammatory disease arachnoiditis. Those types of illness now account for 268 cases linked to the tainted steroid.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control had no further information Wednesday on the newly revealed case of fungal infection.

InterveneMD is the only facility in the state identified by the CDC as having received from NECC some of the suspect batch of steroid.

InterveneMD has said it contacted 257 patients who received a spinal injection of the steroid, and 78 people who received it in a joint injection. The clinics were notified Sept. 26 of the urgent recall of the steroid, and immediately removed it from clinic shelves and returned it to the manufacturer.

“We have been monitoring all our patients and continue to be available to speak with them regarding their treatment and answer any questions they may have. We are providing medical counseling and following all CDC recommendations,” Aren said.

An eight-page report posted at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website says inspectors in late October found 83 unopened vials of methylprednisolone acetate that had a greenish-black foreign matter, and 17 unopened vials of the drug that had a white filamentous contaminant. Inspectors saw the contamination in a batch of the steroid that was later confirmed in lab tests to be tainted with a fungus. The suspect drug was shipped to customers between Aug. 17 and Sept. 25, the report states.

In most cases of fungal infection, the steroid was injected into a patient’s spine. Others received an injection in a joint. In all, 17,600 doses of the possibly tainted steroid were shipped to clinics around the country, putting an estimated 14,000 people at risk. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.