What the U.S. meningitis outbreak means for employers

With hundreds of people affected by a deadly and rare fungal meningitis in 23 states, Arizona employers may be left wondering if and how this outbreak can affect their workforce.

The outbreak has been linked to steroid injections that are traditionally used to control back pain. The tainted steroid medication is thought to have been given to residents in 23 states, though the instances of illness and death continue to rise. Medical experts worry the number of cases will continue to rise and the outbreak could be far from over.

Although Arizona is not yet one of the confirmed states that received shipments of the contaminated steroid, neighboring California is. While the issue is hot in the news, employers may want to take the opportunity to educate workers about the dangers and symptoms of fungal meningitis, for which there is no available prevention.

Fungal meningitis risks and symptoms
Not all instances of fungal meningitis are caused by tainted steroids and medical treatments. Although the infection is not easily spread to others, it is life-threatening and will require immediate medical attention. People living with HIV are at a higher risk for contracting the infection, though contaminated treatments and tainted medication can affect people who are not HIV positive.

Common symptoms of fungal meningitis include irritability, a below-normal body temperature, stiff neck, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and hallucinations.

Employers may want to encourage workers who are experiencing any of the symptoms or think they may somehow be at risk for fungal meningitis to seek medical attention immediately.

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