What is Bacterial Meningitis?
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is the most common form and account for roughly 80% of all cases. It can cause the tissues around the brain to swell and in turn interferes with blood flow which can result in paralysis or even stroke.
Bacterial meningitis and the flu have very similar symptoms, which means that misdiagnosis can be fatal. Symptoms like headaches, high fever, stiff neck, aches, and fatigue can easily be mistaken for the flu, which has no treatment other than time and rest. Bacterial meningitis, on the other hand, can progress very rapidly and result in death if it is not recognized and treated in its earliest stages. Because bacterial meningitis is extremely contagious, particularly in group settings like colleges, schools, and corporate environments, it is even more important to recognize and treat symptoms immediately. Symptoms to look out for besides flu-like symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, and lethargy.
Diagnosis & Care
When it comes to bacterial meningitis, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the prognosis is for the patient. Bacterial meningitis is the result of a bacterial infection of fluid in the spinal cord and fluid that surrounds the brain. It is important to discern whether a particular case of meningitis is the result of a virus or bacterium, because there are differences in the severity and the necessary treatment. Viral meningitis is generally mild and clears up in a week or two without treatment. Bacterial meningitis is much more serious and can cause brain damage and death.
A diagnosis is made by growing bacteria from a sample of spinal fluid taken through a spinal tap by a physician. This procedure is essential in order for the doctor to determine the particular strain of the bacteria, which determines the necessary antibiotic for treatment. In rare occurrences, it is possible for a doctor to misread the bacteria type, subsequently prescribing incorrect and ineffective antibiotics. Offering treatment too late is also detrimental to a patient’s health. While the physician is awaiting results regarding the strain of bacteria, the patient should be prescribed general antibiotics, which can begin the process of ridding the body of bacteria. Once a more specific diagnosis is made, specific antibiotics can continue the work of the general antibiotics, eventually eliminating the bacteria completely.
All physicians should be on the lookout for bacterial meningitis, but awareness should be particularly acute for those doctors who work with children since children comprise of two-thirds of all cases and child mortality rates are much higher than adult mortality rates. If you believe that your physician misdiagnosed bacterial meningitis or delayed treatment for either yourself or a loved one, you and your family may be eligible for compensation. Contact the medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Offices of Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.
Vaccination can prevent four of the five strains of bacterial meningitis, which is why it is extremely important to get vaccinated. Statistics show that 10% of the 25,000 cases of meningitis in the United States are fatal. If any symptoms are present, it is important to see a doctor immediately. Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics, but only at the earliest stages.
Books & Resources
For more information on bacterial meningitis, the following resources are available: