What Is Meningitis?
Meningitis is a rare, highly infectious disease that affects the delicate membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called the meninges. While meningitis attacks adults, children, and newborns all the same, newborns face greater risks of serious and life-threatening complications.
There are three types of meningitis.
- Viral meningitis – This type of strain tends to be the least severe and most healthy people can recover without extensive therapy or procedures.
- Fungal meningitis – Fungal meningitis attacks individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those suffering from an autoimmune disease or newborn babies.
- Bacterial meningitis – This strain can be deadly and is contagious among people in close contact, such as in hospitals, doctors offices, college dorms, etc. Bacterial meningitis can progress very quickly and any delay in diagnosis and/or treatment can lead to catastrophic brain or spinal cord injury and even become deadly.
What are the Symptoms of Meningitis?
Meningitis can show a wide variety of symptoms. It can progress slowly over days and weeks or it can manifest in a matter of hours. However, in the case of small children and newborns, it is more likely to progress quickly, making it all the more dangerous. Some of the most common meningitis symptoms include:
- High fever
- Hardening or bulging of soft spot in newborns
Symptoms to watch out for specifically in infants include:
- High fever
- Crying that is constant and gets worse when holding the baby
- Unexpected sleepiness or being sluggish
- Stiff neck or body
- A bulge on the soft area on top of the baby’s head
- Not eating
- Being unusually cranky
If you see any of these signs or symptoms, take your family member to your doctor or an emergency room right away.
Meningitis can have terrible complications when not treated quickly and properly, including:
- Severe brain damage
- Loss of hearing
- Memory problems
- Neurological delays
- Difficulty with mobility and motor skills
- Kidney failure
Risk Factors for Meningitis
Meningitis can infect adults, children, and infants, but there are some individuals who are more at risk for contracting meningitis than others. The following age groups are at higher risk of contracting the condition:
- Children under the age of five
- Teenagers and young adults aged 16 – 25
- Adults over 55
Meningitis is also more dangerous to individuals with certain medical conditions. If a person has a damaged or missing spleen, a long-term chronic illness, immune system disorders, or a weakened immune system, they are more susceptible to all types of meningitis.
The viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause meningitis can all spread very easily, which means outbreaks are more likely to occur in areas where people live close to each other. Multi-generational households, college dorms, and military barracks are all areas that have a higher rate of transmission since multiple people live in a smaller space. If someone is diagnosed with meningitis while residing in a shared living arrangement, all members of the household, dorm, or barracks should try their best to disinfect shared spaces and watch for symptoms of the disease.
How Do Doctors Misdiagnose Meningitis?
Doctors often misdiagnose meningitis as a flu, cold, or low-grade fever, especially in newborns. However, without a blood test and/or spinal tap, meningitis can go undiagnosed and have serious consequences for the patient.
Doctors use a combination of physical exams and diagnostic tests to determine if a patient has meningitis. They will typically start with a physical exam and medical history check. They will see if you have a sore neck or skin rash that may suggest bacterial meningitis. Diagnostic tests that can help with the diagnosis include blood tests, a CT scan or MRI of the head to find swelling or inflammation in the brain, and performing a spinal tap that takes a small sample of fluid from the spinal cord to test it for meningitis related bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10% to 30% of pregnant women can be carriers of Group B Strep, which can lead to neonatal meningitis. Because of this, testing pregnant women for Group B Strep can help prevent the spread of the disease to the baby.
For patients with bacterial meningitis, getting treatment quickly is crucial. This includes the speedy administration of specific, high-powered antibiotics often given intravenously. Fungal and viral meningitis should also be treated as soon as possible. When meningitis is missed, it can lead to brain damage, coma, and even death.
Experienced Meningitis Misdiagnosis Lawyers
When doctors do not properly diagnose and treat you it can be scary, stressful, and painful for both you and your loved ones. You may feel helpless and in need of someone to fight for you. If a doctor in Pennsylvania failed to diagnose meningitis or if there was a delay in the diagnosis, you may be able to file a claim for financial compensation. The experienced meningitis misdiagnosis lawyers at Lopez McHugh LLP can analyze your situation and explain your legal options. Call us today for a free consultation.