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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

As death toll rises, outbreak’s first case detailed

The fungal meningitis outbreak that has now infected more than 271 people and killed 21 was first identified in a Tennessee man in his 50s, whose harrowing and tragic struggle against the disease has now been detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The report published online Friday provides a window into how the outbreak was first identified and clues as to why it has been a complicated public health problem for doctors and investigators to fully unravel. The first identified case of what doctors later realized was an unprecedented outbreak of a very unusual illness was caused by a mold called Aspergillus fumigatus , while the underlying cause of most of the other cases subsequently identified was a black mold called Exserohilum rostratum .

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