By TRAVIS LOLLER and MIKE STOBBE
Associated Press writers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A fifth person has died in a growing outbreak of a rare form of meningitis that has sickened more than two dozen people in five states.
Dr. Robert Latham, chief of medicine at Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, said Thursday a patient died there late Wednesday or early Thursday, bringing the number of deaths in Tennessee to three.
Deaths have also been reported in Virginia and Maryland. All received steroid injections used mostly for back pain that have been traced back to a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. The pharmacy issued a recall last week and has shut down operations.
The type of meningitis is not contagious and health officials believe that more new cases are almost certain to appear in the coming days.
The government is warning doctors and hospitals not to use any product from the specialty pharmacy that made the steroid suspected in a meningitis outbreak.
An official with the Food and Drug Administration said tests found contamination in a sealed vial of the steroid at the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Tests are under way to determine if it is the same fungus blamed in the outbreak.
Federal officials on Thursday also updated the number of cases in the outbreak. Five people have died and 30 people in six states are ill. All received steroid shots for back pain.
The pharmacy issued a recall last week and has shut down operations. The steroid was sent to 75 facilities in 23 states.
A southwestern Indiana hospital says hundreds of patients are being contacted after receiving medication that's been tied to the outbreak.
St. Mary's Health says about 560 patients received injections of the recalled back pain medication, and roughly 250 have been contacted so far.
Hospital spokeswoman Laura Forbes said Thursday that 10 of the contacted patients are experiencing symptoms that could be consistent with fungal meningitis.
Forbes says the patients received the spinal injections between July 1 and Sept. 28 at Surgicare Cross Pointe, an outpatient surgery clinic in Evansville. As many as 60 patients received multiple injections.
Forbes says the hospital is taking the situation "very seriously" and is trying to contact the remaining patients.
AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe in New York City contributed to this report.
Modified, Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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