Meningitis is a frightening illness that affects all ages. It is especially dangerous for infants and children. It usually begins with flu-like symptoms, but these symptoms may lull people into a false sense of security when they actually have an infection to the brain or spinal cord. If not treated promptly, some forms of meningitis can lead to death or permanent injury.
Types of Meningitis
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (called meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It occurs when a the body attempts to fight off an infection by allowing fluid, white blood cells, and infection-fighting particles in the meninges and brain. This attempt to heal causes the brain to swell and can lead to decreased blood flow to the brain.
There are five types of meningitis:
- Bacterial Meningitis is caused by bacteria. It is the most serious type of meningitis and is often life threatening. About 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis, including 500 deaths, occurred each year in the United States between 2003-2007. If diagnosed and treated in time, bacterial meningitis can usually be effectively treated with antibiotics.
- Viral meningitis is caused by viruses. Although serious, it is rarely fatal and is often treated without medication or by comfort measures. It is the most common form of meningitis.
- Parasitic meningitis is caused by parasites and is uncommon in developed countries.
- Fungal meningitis is usually acquired by inhaling fungal spores, but may also be acquired through contaminated medical equipment. Although rare, it is very serious and often fatal. It is most common in individuals with weakened immune systems.
- Non-infectious meningitis is not contagious and is caused by other factors such as brain injury, brain surgery, cancer, or certain drugs.
Meningitis symptoms may vary by age. Children two years old and younger tend to exhibit different symptoms than older individuals. Symptoms usually develop over a course of 3-7 days, but may develop faster in some individuals. Rapid-onset symptoms are particularly dangerous and frequently result in death.
Adults are likely to exhibit some combination of the following symptoms:
- Headache occurs in at least 90% of people with meningitis
- Stiff neck occurs in at least 85% of people with meningitis
- Fever and chills occur in at least 90% of people with meningitis
- Sensitivity to bright lights
Less common symptoms
- Localized weakness
- Joint swelling and pain
- Rash is a very serious symptom and may indicate dangerous blood poisoning.
- Lack of interest in eating and drinking
- Sleepiness or difficulty waking up
Newborns and young children may exhibit the following symptoms:
- High Fever
- Constant and/or high-pitched cry
- Dislike of being held
- Poor feeding
- A bulge in the soft spot on top of a baby’s head
- Stiffness in a baby’s body and neck
How to Diagnose Meningitis
An accurate and timely diagnosis is vital in order to avoid long-term injury or death. In order to properly treat meningitis, doctors must determine which form of meningitis the patient is suffering from because different forms of meningitis require different treatment strategies.
Once the doctor has examines a patient and learns the patient’s symptoms, the doctor may order tests to further the diagnosis:
- CT Scan to determine if the brain is infected
- Blood tests to determine blood cell counts or the presence of bacteria
- Chest X-ray to look for signs of pneumonia or fluid in the lungs
- Spinal tap to determine both the presence and type of meningitis. This is the only way to definitively diagnose meningitis. If a patient is too ill for a spinal tap, a doctor may proceed with treatment as if the patient has bacterial meningitis.
Dangers of Meningitis
Although most people recover from meningitis without long-term repercussions, it remains an extremely dangerous condition. Bacterial meningitis and fungal meningitis are usually the most dangerous forms of meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is fatal in approximately 20-25% of cases. Patients suffering from a rapid onset of bacterial meningitis have a fatality rates which may be as high as 90%. Furthermore, meningitis may require prolonged hospitalization and rehabilitation.
Meningitis may result in long-term repercussions after the initial disease passes. Approximately one out of twelve bacterial meningitis patients suffer from some of the following conditions after the disease passes:
- Brain damage
- Hearing loss
- Learning disabilities
- Memory problems
- Lack of concentration
- Residual headaches
- Epilepsy and seizures
- Speech problems
- Paralysis of spasms
- Loss of sight
- Kidney Failure
- Gait problems
Meningitis Medical Malpractice by Failing to Diagnose Meningitis
Meningitis is a dangerous disease that can move rapidly. Early diagnosis and treatment is the most important factor for a positive outcome. If a doctor does not diagnose the correct form of meningitis in a timely fashion, the patient may never receive the effective treatment needed. Treatments for one form of meningitis may be ineffective for other forms of meningitis. A failure to promptly treat drastically increases the chance of death and long-term after affects.
A failure to diagnose [hyperlink to failure to diagnose page] meningitis may occur due to a failure to listen to a patient’s symptoms or failure to order proper tests. A failure to diagnose could occur due to improper reading of tests or miscommunication. Additionally, a failure to diagnose may occur through a misdiagnosis as a different medical condition or incorrect form of meningitis.
Negligence by Causing Meningitis Infection
Tragically, some patients contract meningitis while undergoing a medical procedure. This may occur in instances when medical equipment is not proper cleaned or contaminated medication is utilized. This was seen in the 2012 New England Compounding Center incident in which three lots of epidural steroid injections were contaminated with fungal meningitis. Hundreds of people in 23 states, including Illinois and Indiana, contracted the illness.
Contact Our Meningitis Attorneys Today
If you or someone you love has died or suffered seriously due to a failure to diagnose meningitis or contracting meningitis from a healthcare procedure, contact our skilled meningitis attorneys @ Gupta Law Group. For a free consultation, contact us to discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. You pay no fees unless we recover damages for you.