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Michigan, feds to collaborate on fungal meningitis outbreak investigations


Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is joining forces with federal authorities to investigate last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak.

Michigan was hardest-hit by the nationwide outbreak that’s linked to tainted steroids from a now-defunct Massachusetts compounding pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center.

More than 750 people in 20 states have contracted fungal meningitis from steroid injections that were meant to relieve pain. In Michigan, 22 people have died, and more than 260 people were sickened by the disease.

Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz joined Schuette in Detroit Monday to announce they’ll coordinate their “parallel and independent” criminal investigations. Michigan is the only state running its own criminal investigation.

Ortiz says this cooperation will give both state and federal officials access to more information, and a bigger picture.

“I want to assure the public that these investigations remain active. And because of the consideration offered by Michigan, these independent federal and state investigations are stronger and more focused.”

Ortiz says she’s “confident in the direction” of the ongoing federal probe, which she calls “complex and wide-ranging.”

Similarly, Schuette called Michigan’s investigation—which includes a multi-county grand jury set to expire this month—“productive.”

Both Ortiz and Schuette declined to talk specifics, and wouldn’t give a timeline for when criminal charges might be filed.

But Schuette thinks this collaboration will bring swifter results. “That’s why we’re combining forces… we have two horses pulling one wagon to provide justice for victims.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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