Merced pain medicine doctors want to reassure their patients that they don't have much to worry about regarding a rare meningitis outbreak that as of Wednesday afternoon had resulted in 12 deaths and 137 sick patients across the country.
The outbreak has been linked to contaminated epidural steroid injections distributed by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The contaminated medication was voluntarily recalled by the compounding center late last month.
California was among 23 states that had received the contaminated medication products. Only four facilities in the state received shipments, but none are in Merced County. The nearest facility that received the contaminated products is in Visalia.
The Interventional Pain Center of Merced buys its products from a different pharmaceutical company, Dr. Ramakrishna Thondapu said, so patients can feel safe.
"We are glad we are not getting any products from the particular supplier," said Dr. Gundala Reddy of the Merced center.
Reddy and Thondapu said they have received calls from patients asking questions about the outbreak.
"So far, we are very safe," Thondapu said.
The center treats about 40 to 50 chronic pain patients a week on average, Thondapu said.
The epidural injections help patients be more mobile and rely on fewer pain medications because they're more effective, Thondapu said.
He said the injections are effective for disc herniation, spinal stenosis, discogenic pain and post surgery syndrome. However, Thondapu said, complications could occur if an injection is not performed properly.
Epidural injections are a common procedure at the pain center in Merced, with physicians following strict safety procedures, Thondapu said.
The center doctors also wanted to reassure their patients that it's safe for them to have these procedures.
"With news like this, it's very important for them to know that we are doing safe practices here," Reddy said. "We stick to quality-control protocols. We follow all these protocols to prevent infections and damage to the patients' well-being."
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.