The first of many lawsuits is filed as officials confirm 14 people are dead and 170 infected after receiving tainted steroids.
By Hannah Thomas-Peter, New York Correspondent
American health officials say 14,000 people have been exposed to contaminated drugs linked to a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak.
Fourteen people are dead and at least 170 infected across eleven states after being treated for back pain with tainted steroid injections.
The US Centres for Disease Control released the new information as the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reported that 50 vials of the medicine had tested positive for fungal meningitis so far.
Doctors are rushing to warn people who might have been exposed, many of whom might not experience symptoms for around 30 days after infection.
Fungal meningitis is rare and not passed from person to person, but it is a very serious condition with symptoms including neck ache, fever, headaches and extreme sensitivity to light.
The batch of steroids linked to the outbreak has been recalled, and the Massachusetts pharmacy that manufactured it, the New England Compounding Centre (NECC), has said it is co-operating with authorities investigating the outbreak.
But Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said the NECC may have misled regulators and done work beyond the scope of its state licence.
An FDA official said the NECC had assured federal authorities that it was producing safe products, and that the meningitis outbreak showed the need for a new scheme to oversee the specific type of drug associated with it.
The legal backlash has already begun with a Minnesota woman launching what is thought to be the first of many lawsuits against the NECC.
Barbe Puro says she suffered “bodily harm, emotional distress, and other personal injuries” after being injected in September with doses of the steroid medication.
She is waiting for the results of a painful spinal tap to confirm if she has the illness.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and class-action status to cover fellow patients in Minnesota.