The number of deaths caused by the national meningitis outbreak has again increased to 23, the CDC reports. Cases have increased to 285 in 16 states. These numbers are an increase over just Friday, when the CDC reported 21 deaths and 271 infections.

The New England Compounding Center is facing a wave of lawsuits over the meningitis caused by fungus in the vials shipped out by their company. Already, 10 have been filed, with at least one seeking class action status. Any one of the patients who had received the shot can file a lawsuit, even if they do not know if they had meningitis. With 14,000 patients at risk, experts estimate that as many as 5,000 lawsuits can be filed.

Though NECC is the only plaintiff in the lawsuits thus far, legal experts expect that others may be added: nurses, doctors, the manufacturers that provided the raw materials that the NECC compiled into the injections. As of yet, it seems that health officials have not suggested that drug manufacturers are responsible for any wrongdoing.

The non-contagious fungal meningitis may provide years of ramifications for people who have been infected. Even in those who survive, they may suffer from years of mental and physical health problems. This type of meningitis can cause dangerous strokes, which may lead to severe deficits, like speech problems or memory deficits.

Because spinal taps are very uncomfortable, many at-risk patients choose to wait for symptoms to show up. In addition, many fearful patients develop symptoms even though tests do not show that they have the disease, perhaps in part because of anxiety. But doctors cannot treat those who are not ill, because the medication comes with many side effects.

Doctors hope to soon figure out who is at greatest risk for infection so that they can target those patients with spinal taps and other procedures. Tennessee's State Health Department found that people who received older vials and higher doses seemed to be at increased risk for developing an infection. The researchers believe that older vials pose a greater risk because the fungus has had a longer time to multiply.

The New England Journal of Medicine has published a case report of what is believed to be the first case of the national meningitis outbreak. Though the patient was treated by aggressive remedies, he died after 22 days.