Meningitis - Medical Negligence Lawyers
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Meningitis is an infection or inflammation around the brain’s coverings, called the meninges, as well as around the spinal cord. This type of infection occurs most commonly in kids, teens, and in young people. Some older adults are at risk as are people who suffer from weakened immune systems.
There are two kinds of meningitis:
- There is bacterial meningitis, which is less common but is very severe. Immediate treatment with antibiotics is the only way to treat it and to prevent death from meningitis.
- There is viral meningitis, which is relatively common. Serious illness is rare and, when severe, causes a prolonged case of fever and convulsions.
Both kinds of meningitis can have the same symptoms. If you experience symptoms, it is vital to seek medical attention to find out which kind of meningitis you have. Meningitis is caused by viruses or bacteria in most cases, but there are rare cases caused by other kinds of organisms and some medications. In most cases, meningitis can be passed from person to person and can be contagious. Close contact leads to sneezing and coughing as sources of infection.
The symptoms of meningitis include the following:
- Stiff neck
The symptoms can be different depending on which type of person gets the disease. For example, babies can be fussy and can refuse to eat. Babies can get a rash or may be inconsolable, even when held. Children can have flu-like symptoms like a cough or problems with shortness of breath. Older adults may only exhibit a fever and slight headache.
If you or your child has these symptoms, you should seek medical attention. It takes medical skill to be able to tell if the patient has meningitis or not. The main diagnosis of meningitis includes getting an accurate history and physical, doing blood testing and doing a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. Fluid is drawn from the area around the spinal cord and is evaluated for special cells and bacteria.
It is very important to see a doctor right away if you or your child has these symptoms. Only a doctor can tell whether they are caused by viral or bacterial meningitis. And bacterial meningitis can be deadly if not treated right away. CT scans or MRI scans can be performed to see if there is swelling on the brain or a brain abscess.
The treatment of meningitis is dependent on the cause. If the infection is bacterial, it is treated with IV antibiotics and hospitalization. Some patients get dexamethasone for inflammation around the brain. The patient will be monitored carefully for the presence of convulsions, brain damage or hearing loss.
Viral meningitis is treated supportively with observation for about 2 weeks and medications for fever. No antibiotic will take away the symptoms of this condition.
Meningitis can be prevented through the use of immunizations such as measles, Haemophilus influenzae, chicken pox and pneumococcus injections. There is also the meningococcal vaccination, to be given to the following:
- Adults 21 or younger who have missed the vaccination
- Teens at age 11-12 with a booster at age 16
- People who plan travel in the sub-Saharan desert
- People who have HIV
- People with no spleen
Boosters are sometimes needed every 5 years if they continue to be at risk for getting meningitis
Complications of meningitis can happen to anyone and can be very severe, if not life-threatening. The longer you go or your child goes without treatment, the longer is the risk of complications like permanent brain damage or a seizure disorder. The main complications of meningitis include the following:
- Learning difficulties
- Hearing loss
- Memory difficulties
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
- Gait difficulties
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here