News Local/State

Health Officer: 3 Meningitis Deaths in Indiana


All three Indiana deaths from fungal meningitis caused by injections of a recalled back pain medication have been linked to Elkhart County, as have more than two-thirds of the state's 41 total cases, the county's health officer confirmed Wednesday.

Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Dan Nafziger confirmed the deaths and 28 cases of the meningitis but declined to discuss any specific cases.

State and federal health officials updated Indiana's numbers Wednesday to 41 total cases and three deaths — including that of one out-of-state resident.

Relatives of 89-year-old Pauline Burema of Cassopolis, Mich., have said they believe she contracted the disease after receiving an injection at the OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart. Burema died Oct. 10.

The Elkhart County Health Department is tracking each of the 28 cases linked to the northern Indiana county, which is east of South Bend and borders Michigan, Nafziger said.

Most patients have responded well to treatment, he said.

"A number of patients have been sent home from the hospital already," Nafziger said. "The majority of the patients that have been diagnosed are back out in the community."

Fungal meningitis is not contagious, health officials have said.

The Indiana State Department of Health has identified the OSMC clinic as one of six Indiana clinics that received contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. All of the steroids have been voluntarily recalled.

Nafziger said the clinic and area hospitals have responded well to the outbreak.

"I think it's been a very difficult circumstance for the providers. It's not anything anyone foresaw," he said.

The state health department said Indiana has 1,502 people who were exposed to the contaminated medication through an epidural or joint injection. The five other Indiana clinics that received the contaminated steroids are located in Evansville, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Terre Haute and Columbus.

"Unfortunately the number of patients and victims has grown," Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said in a news release. "Every patient exposed in Indiana has been contacted by their healthcare provider. "

Nationwide, there have been 24 deaths and 317 cases of fungal meningitis in 17 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.