Faulty steroid recalled: The outbreak has been linked to a steroid produced by New England Compounding Center, a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts. The steroid has been recalled. Patients should ask if their medications come from compounding pharmacies.

Symptoms: Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms can include severe headache, nausea and fever.

About the steroids: Doctors who give these injections say they are extremely safe when done correctly with sterile drugs. The injections are a common treatment for sciatica, which is pain from a slipped or ruptured disk that often radiates down the legs, and for spinal stenosis, an age-related narrowing of the spine.

The fungus: The two kinds of fungus linked to the outbreak are widespread and rarely make people sick. People inhale one kind, Aspergillus, all the time. It's nearly impossible to avoid, found in such places as decaying leaves, trees, grain, soil, household dust, heating ducts and building materials. The fungus can also cause skin infections if it enters a break in the skin. The second kind, Exserohilum, is found in grass and rotting wood. When it causes disease, it's most commonly a skin infection or inflammation in the sinuses. Healthy immune systems can usually destroy the spores. ASSOCIATED PRESS