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Meningitis outbreak deaths in US climb to 23: officials

WASHINGTON -- The death toll in the United States from an unprecedented outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to a contaminated drug has climbed to 23 people, health officials said Saturday.

The number of infections tied to the tainted steroid rose to 284 in 16 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on its website.

Officials have said at least 14,000 people in 23 states could be at risk and that it could be weeks or even months before authorities have a final tally of the infections, due to the disease's long incubation period.

The southern state of Tennessee remains the hardest hit with 69 cases and nine deaths, followed by Michigan with 53 cases and five fatalities.

Other badly hit states include Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.

The tainted steroid — typically injected into the spine to treat back pain — was produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, which has since shut down its operations and recalled all of its products.

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