Death toll for meningitis cases linked to injections rises to eight

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn, Oct 8 (Reuters) - U.S. health officials on Monday reported an additional 14 cases in a fungal meningitis outbreak linked to steroid injections that has now killed eight people and infected 105 in nine states.

The widening outbreak has alarmed U.S. health officials and focused attention on regulations of pharmaceutical compounding companies like the one that produced the drugs, the New England Compounding Center Inc in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The number of deaths has risen to eight from seven reported on Sunday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 the brain and spinal cord, and affected patients started showing a variety of symptoms from one to four weeks after their injections.

(Reporting By Mary Wisniewski and Tim Ghianni)