03/26/2013 01:27 pm ET

Michigan Meningitis Outbreak: State Attorney General Bill Schuette Files For Grand Jury Investigation

Last year, a deadly wave of meningitis hit Michigan hard, and state Attorney General Bill Schuette wants some answers.

He'd like to find out whether a Massachusetts company linked to the outbreak broke any state laws by distributing tainted steroid injections to patients in four Michigan counties.

On Tuesday, Schuette petitioned the Michigan Court of Appeals to convene a multi-county grand jury investigation of the New England Compounding Center (NECC), which last year spread the deadly fungal meningitis through its shipment of the back pain drug methylprednisolone acetate. The Michigan outbreak affected patients in Genesee, Grand Traverse, Livingston and Macomb counties.

“Hundreds of Michigan citizens and their families have endured terrible pain and deaths of loved ones suffering from illnesses caused by these tainted steroid injections,” Schuette said in a release. “This investigation is necessary uncover the truth as to how this unspeakable tragedy happened and to restore public faith in our healthcare system.”

The impact of the outbreak was more severe in Michigan than any other state, killing 14 people and infecting 259, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of March 4, a total of 720 cases and 48 deaths have been reported in 20 states nationwide, the agency said.

Fungal meningitis is not contagious. Symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.

The New England Compounding Center shut down last October and later filed for bankruptcy, according to Reuters. The news agency reports that the company avoided serious penalties from health regulators a number of times before the outbreak and had issues dating back to 1999.



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