(Updates with new case and death figures)
By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct 8 (Reuters) - U.S. health authoritiesscrambled on Monday to identify more cases of a rare form ofmeningitis, including enlisting local police to find people whomight be infected by tainted steroid injections that have so farkilled eight people.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported 105 cases innine states on Monday, up from 91 cases on Sunday. The deathtoll rose by one overnight.
The widening outbreak has alarmed federal and state healthofficials and focused attention on regulation of pharmaceuticalcompounding companies like the one that produced the drugs, theNew England Compounding Center Inc in Framingham, Massachusetts.
In Ohio, health officials said Monday they are mobilizingcommunity resources, including sheriff's offices, to check onpatients who have received the injections.
"If that means knocking on doors, then that's what they willdo," said Beth Bickford, executive director at the Associationof Ohio Health Commissioners, in a statement Monday. The statehas so far reported one case of fungal meningitis likely causedby a tainted epidural steroid injection.
The company shipped 17,676 vials of the steroidmethylprednisolone acetate to 76 facilities in 23 states fromJuly through September, the Massachusetts Health Departmentsaid.
The steroid is used as a painkiller, usually for the back,and could have been injected in thousands of patients,authorities have said.
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering thebrain and spinal cord, and affected patients started showing avariety of symptoms from one to four weeks after theirinjections.
The company, which was previously the subject of complaints,has suspended its operations while an investigation proceeds andearlier recalled the three lots of the drug. It expanded itsrecall on Saturday to all products compounded and distributed atits Framingham facility.
A compounding pharmacy takes medications frompharmaceuticals manufacturers and makes them into specificdosages and strengths for use by doctors.
Complaints against the company in 2002 and 2003 about theprocessing of medication resulted in an agreement withgovernment agencies in 2006 to correct deficiencies, theMassachusetts Health Department said.
A list of facilities that received vials from the infectedlots can be found via the website .
(Reporting By Tim Ghianni; Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editingby Greg McCune and Cynthia Osterman)
Keywords: USA HEALTH/MENINGITIS