State's first death further raises meningitis concerns
The first meningitis death linked to a tainted shot given to a patient in Indiana is raising more concerns about the meningitis outbreak.
There are now 21 fungal meningitis cases confirmed here in Indiana. An 89-year-old woman from Cassopolis, Michigan died at her daughter's home in Bristol after receiving two injections at a northern Indiana clinic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 170 meningitis cases nationwide. There are 14 deaths linked to the disease.
Plus, the virus has now spread to an eleventh state.
What is also troubling about this meningitis outbreak is that tests may not detect it.
Jennifer Hayes had been experiencing symptoms, so her husband rushed her to the emergency room. Eyewitness News spoke with Hayes on Tuesday, but Thursday, she was being treated for an unbearable headache at the Columbus Hospital emergency room.
With her exposure to possibly tainted steroid injections, even a headache, one of the symptoms of this disease, could not be ignored.
Jennifer's husband, Joshua, said it was like sitting on a ticking time bomb.
"I just don't want it go off, you know?" said Joshua.
The husband and father of three, along with Jennifer, will have no choice but to wait while they wonder if the steroid shots Jennifer received for back pain in the past two months will lead to a fungal meningitis that's already killed 14 people.
"We know what the ultimate end result could be, but just to have to face that," said Joshua.
Part of facing that meant getting right to the hospital, like the couple did Thursday when Jennifer came down with the intense headache.
"Until we're in the clear, we don't know," said Joshua.
So far, Jennifer has tested negative for fungal meningitis. Her last steroid shot was in early September, but the family doesn't know how long before she is really in the clear.
Is one month enough? How about two? Or will they wait longer?
"Do we have another sixty days? Another eight months? Another ten months, you know? I don't know," said Joshua.
"The typical incubation period ranges from one to four weeks. In a few cases, that incubation period is longer, so there may be a delay in recognizing what's going on," explained state epidemiologist Pam Pantones.
Pantones said with each new case that develops, there's more to learn.
"Fungal meningitis is very rare and this outbreak is teaching us a lot about how fungal meningitis behaves," said Pantones.
Joshua Hayes said he prays his wife won't come down with the disease.
"That's my wife, you know. I love my wife," said Hayes.
He said he'll be at Jennifer's side until they know she'll be safe.
"I don't know when to say that, we'll just have that, you know, ok, its for sure. I don't know," said Joshua.
That means, until then, every headache, every possible symptom, can't be ignored.