CDC reports 18 more U.S. cases of meningitis from steroid injections

Oct 10 (Reuters) - Eighteen more people have contracted meningitis from potentially tainted steroid injections, and a death was officially confirmed in Florida, bringing the total number killed to 12, the Centers for Disease Control said on Wednesday.

A total of 137 people have been stricken with a rare fungal meningitis in 10 states since the outbreak began, according to the latest CDC tally, up from 119 listed on Tuesday.

Five more cases of meningitis were discovered in the hardest hit state of Tennessee, bringing its total to 44. Michigan, Indiana and Virginia added three more cases each.

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

The steroid is used as a painkiller, usually to alleviate back pain, and could have been injected in some 13,000 patients,

authorities have said.

Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Patients show a variety of symptoms including severe headaches and fever.

(Reporting By Greg McCune; Editing by Paul Thomasch)