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New Jersey patients affected by meningitis outbreak bring lawsuit

Patients in the New Jersey area who received contaminated steroid injections -- which have caused a national meningitis outbreak where 23 people have died and 304 more have been infected -- are now suing the New Jersey physicians and orthopedic clinics where they received treatment.

The defective steroid compounds were produced by the New England Compounding Center, which reportedly shipped thousands of contaminated units to doctors in New Jersey and all across the country. Although there are applicable safety regulations, the pharmacy in this case may have failed to wait for results of sterility tests on the steroids, or failed to maintain sterile conditions in its facilities.

Spinal meningitis or meningococcal disease, often simply referred to as meningitis, is an infection which causes inflammation of the cerebrospinal fluid and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Although it is common for infants to receive a vaccine for spinal meningitis, adults who have trouble fighting infection can nevertheless develop the infection. Symptoms may include headache, vomiting, fever and chills, neck stiffness, seizures, drowsiness, and/or light sensitivity.

The cause of the infection can be viral, bacterial or fungal. A case of viral meningitis may not be severe. However, bacterial or fungal meningitis cases are often much more serious. Without treatment, meningitis can cause brain damage, deafness, loss of vision, or other complications that may interfere with or prevent a person from working. In such event, Social Security disability benefits may be available.

To determine whether a worker with meningitis is eligible for SSDI benefits, the Social Security Administration typically requires an applicant to prove that the condition substantially limits his or her ability to work. Meeting that evidentiary burden is not always an easy task -- indeed, many initial applications are denied. However, an attorney can ensure that you prepare a successful application the first time around.

Source: Reuters, "Analysis: Meningitis suits may turn on how injections are defined," Nick Brown, Oct. 24, 2012

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