INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The family of a southern Michigan woman said Thursday
they believe she died of fungal meningitis after receiving two injections of
a tainted back pain medication at a northern Indiana clinic.
Pauline Burema, 89, of Cassopolis, Mich., died Wednesday at a daughter’s
home in Bristol, Ind., said the woman’s granddaughter, Lisa Ann Durbin.
The family was awaiting autopsy results to confirm the cause of death,
Durbin said. However, doctors told the family they think Burema had
contracted fungal meningitis from shots she received Aug. 22 and Sept. 8 at
OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an Indiana fungal
meningitis death Thursday, and Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman at the
Michigan Department of Community Health, said a Cass County, Mich., resident
died of fungal meningitis after being treated for back pain in Indiana.
Cassopolis is in Cass County.
Burema was found unconscious Oct. 3 in her home about 15 miles north of
Elkhart, Durbin said. She had seen her doctor just two days earlier.
“She was in perfect health. She was getting ready to go to New Mexico for
the balloon festival,” Durbin, of Decatur, Mich., said in a telephone
The family initially believed Burema suffered a stroke, and she was admitted
to an Elkhart County hospital, Durbin said. She regained consciousness, but
her condition worsened, and Burema spent her final days at her daughter’s
The family was “pretty upset” when doctors said she contracted meningitis
from the steroids she took for recurring back pain, Durbin said.
“It’s kind of a devastating way to pass away. You could tell she was in a
lot of pain,” Durbin said. She said her grandmother was being treated with
morphine, other painkillers and several different antibiotics. Burema also
had a “growing” black fungus inside her mouth before she died, Durbin said.
The family decided to donate Burema’s body for research, Durbin said.
“What our family is hoping is that they can find a cure to maybe help out
all the other patients so that not everybody has to die,” she said.
The tainted steroid originated at the New England Compounding Center, a
specialty pharmacy in Framingham, Mass.
Don Hammond, chief executive officer of the Elkhart clinic, said 400
patients there received injections from three lots of the tainted medicine,
and all have been notified of the threat of contracting meningitis.
The Indiana State Department of Health said 21 cases of fungal meningitis
linked to the steroid have been confirmed in Indiana and 1,568 people were
exposed to the contaminated medication through an epidural or joint
injection at the Elkhart clinic or clinics in Columbus, Evansville, Fort
Wayne, South Bend and Terre Haute.
“All exposed patients in Indiana have been contacted by their healthcare
provider,” Indiana Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin said in a statement.
“It is important to remember that fungal meningitis is not contagious as it
is not transmitted from person to person.”
The CDC said the meningitis outbreak has reached 170 cases and 14 deaths in
Patients who have received a steroid injection on or after May 21 and are
experiencing symptoms — such as a new or worsening headache, fever, neck
stiffness or pain, redness or swelling at the injection site — should
immediately contact their physician to receive further evaluation, the