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updated: 10/19/2012 5:35 PM

Meningitis death toll rises to 21

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Bloomberg News

Twenty-one people in the U.S. have died from a fungal meningitis outbreak linked to tainted steroid injections for back pain, health authorities said.

The contaminated drugs are tied to 271 reported illnesses in 16 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today in an update posted on its website. The Food and Drug Administration has informed states which hospitals and clinics received products from the New England Compounding Center connected to the outbreak, Sarah Clark-Lynn, a spokeswoman for the agency, said today in a telephone interview.

Medicines meant to be injected that were made by the pharmacy may be contaminated, the agency has said. The FDA plans to list on its website the health-care providers that bought any drugs from NECC, Clark-Lynn said.

"We have reason to believe they were working in all 50 states," she said.

Delaware has made public its list of 13 health-care providers who received drugs from the pharmacy. The state's information includes whether the products are injectable or not.

"We wanted to get out our list as soon as possible," Jill Fredel, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, said in an e-mail. The state has no reported meningitis illness, according to the CDC.

New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc., which used the name New England Compounding Center, suspended operations this month and recalled 17,676 doses of the steroid after reports linked the drug to the fungal meningitis infections. The steroid was shipped to 75 hospitals and clinics in 23 states, the FDA has said.

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