TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Health has confirmed that a 70-year-old man died in Florida as a result of the fungal meningitis linked to a national outbreak that has killed 12 people and sickened another 119.
This is the first Florida death linked to the meningitis outbreak.
State health officials said the man died back in July before the outbreak was discovered, but his death was just linked to the outbreak.
Officials said this is one in six confirmed meningitis cases in Florida. All six cases are related to the same facility in Marion County.
A 78-year-old man has also been identified with fungal meningitis related to a contaminated back steroid injection.
"We are saddened to hear of this news, and share our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of this individual," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. "Our disease investigation process discovered the link of this individual's death to the contaminated medication, and we will continue to work closely with our health partners to ensure that individuals who may have received the contaminated medicine are treated immediately."
Three clinics in Marion County now seem to be at the center of the outbreak in Florida.
They are Florida Pain Clinic, Marion Pain Management Center, and Surgery Center Of Ocala. Those are three of the 76 clinics nationwide that got the tainted steroid shots.
So far, health officials haven't said which clinic in Marion County is linked to the infections of those six people, including the death of the 70-year-old man.
The steroids are injected into the spine to reduce back pain and were somehow contaminated with a fungus that causes meningitis.
The steroids were also sent to one clinic in Orlando, as well as clinics in South Florida and the Florida Panhandle. No infections have yet been reported from those.
State officials said nearly 1,200 Florida patients got the tainted medicine. Nationwide as many as 13,000 people across 23 states may have also been exposed.
Now on high alert, health officials want the public to know early treatment can improve the outcome. Experts said people need to contact their doctors if they think they got the shot.
Fungal meningitis is a very rare and non-contagious form of the disease. Early symptoms include headache, fever and slurred speech.