State: 24 Indiana meningitis cases tied to steroid

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More people in Indiana are coming down with a potentially deadly form of meningitis.

The Indiana Department of Health says there are now 24 cases of fungal meningitis, up from 21 cases reported by Thursday. One death, an 89-year-old Michigan woman who received a steroid injection at a northern Indiana clinic, has been reported in the state.

Pauline Burema was active, fiercely independent and full of life. Doctors believe she died of fungal meningitis after receiving injections at an Elkhart surgery center.

"There are five children and I would say none of us are angry. It has happened and being angry about it won't change anything," said Burema's daughter, Marsha Martin.

Dr. Karen Roos at the IU School of Medicine isn't angry, either, but she's plenty aggravated.

"We are waiting too long. We are just watching numbers and every day marking down a few more deaths," Roos said.

Instead, the IU professor and practicing neurologist insists doctors should be testing and treating patients before they arrive in emergency rooms experiencing symptoms of meningitis.

"Why are we waiting until people are getting sick? Why aren't we getting out in front of this, to find out who's been infected and treating them now," Roos said.

The outbreak has already claimed 14 lives and sickened nearly 200 people. Almost 1,600 Indiana patients received the possibly-contaminated steroid injections at a half-dozen hospitals and pain clinics.

"If you had that phone call, I think you ought to have the blood test for fungal infections," Roos said.

Roos says a similar spinal fluid test that can identify the infections before the symptoms appear. Fungal meningitis attacks the brain, causing strokes and other life-threatening conditions. The sooner victims are treated, doctors say, the more likely they are to recover.

Indiana's 24 cases involve patients at six Indiana health facilities that received a steroid recalled by a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy. Those clinics are in Elkhart, Evansville, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Terre Haute and Columbus.

Pharmacy tied to meningitis outbreak may have broken state law

Latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (nationwide):

Illnesses: 184
Deaths: 14
States: 12; Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.