The death toll from an American meningitis outbreak linked to tainted medication has reached 12, according to US officials, who have documented more than 120 infections in 10 states.

Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as many as 13,000 people might have received doses of the contaminated steroid injection that has caused an outbreak of the rare fungal infection.

Among the hardest hit states are Tennessee with 39 cases, Michigan with 25, and Virginia with 24. Florida, Maryland and Minnesota, New Jersey, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio also reported cases.

The Florida Department of Health reported the state's first death late Tuesday, saying a 70-year-old who died of the disease in July had been linked to the contaminated steroid injection.

Meningitis inflames protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.

The disease often goes undetected until it is too late because its flu-like symptoms can be mild at first.

Treatment requires a hospital stay and intravenous anti-fungal medications.

US health officials suspect a fungal contaminant in a sealed vial of the drug produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts caused the outbreak, and have launched a multi-state investigation.

The company that produced the steroids has issued a voluntary recall of all of its products and shut down all operations.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]