Spinal meningitis is a serious medical condition that can have devastating consequences for children, patients, and their families. It is caused by inflammation of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. It’s most often spread to newborns, children, and older patients.
The symptoms of spinal meningitis can be severe and can include high fever, headache, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light. In some cases, spinal meningitis can lead to permanent neurological damage or even death.
Bacteria vs. Viral Meningitis
As mentioned, there are two types of spinal meningitis: one caused by bacterial infection and the other caused by a viral infection. Here’s how they differ:
According to the CDC, bacterial meningitis can sometimes spread through food but most often these germs spread from person to person. This type of meningitis can cause outbreaks in settings like daycare facilities, college dormitories or military barracks. Coughing, sneezing, and kissing can spread the bacteria.
Bacterial meningitis may affect the following age groups most often:
- Newborns (passed from mother to baby during childbirth)
- Babies and young children
- Teens and younger adults
- Elder adults
Of these groups, babies are the most at risk for getting bacterial meningitis, and it’s critical that the signs and symptoms are noted, tested, and treated right away. Bacterial meningitis is usually serious and causes a myriad of complications and death.
Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis but usually less serious. For mild cases, it’ll clear up on its own after about 7-10 days. But the more severe cases usually afflict:
- Children under 5
- People with compromised immune systems
- Infants less than 1 month old with weakened immune systems (resulting in severe cases)
Different viruses can cause viral meningitis, but the most common cause in the United States is Non-polio enteroviruses.
Timely Diagnosis And Treatment Of Meningitis Is Critical
Meningitis – especially bacterial meningitis – must be timely diagnosed and treated, or else it can be deadly. It starts by paying attention to classic signs and symptoms of meningitis, particularly in an infant or toddler. The CDC reports that those signs include:
- High Fever
- Stiff neck
- Irritability/poor feeding/sleepiness
- Lethargy (lack of energy or movement)
What Should You Expect When You Seek Help for Your Child
If you take your child to the emergency room or your child’s pediatrician, the doctor should conduct a clinical examination and detect the signs of a potential infection. The doctor should then order proper tests to make a diagnosis.
For instance, a lumbar puncture, or “spinal tap,” can be used to determine whether there is inflammation of the membranes as well as whether a viral or bacterial infection has occurred. Based on the diagnosis, the doctor can start timely treatment such as medication, IV fluids or, in severe cases, oxygen supplementation. Any delay in the diagnosis and treatment of meningitis can lead to severe complications, including seizures, brain damage, hearing and vision loss and problems in the heart, kidneys and adrenal glands.
How to Prevent Spinal Meningitis
Prevention of spinal meningitis is key, and there are several vaccines available that can help protect against bacterial meningitis. The CDC recommends that all children receive the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against the most common strains of Neisseria meningitidis. Additionally, the CDC recommends that college students, military personnel, and others at increased risk for meningococcal disease receive the vaccine.
Despite the availability of vaccines and effective treatments, medical malpractice can still occur in cases of spinal bacterial meningitis. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to provide the appropriate standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient. In cases of spinal meningitis, medical malpractice can occur if a healthcare provider fails to diagnose the condition in a timely manner, fails to administer appropriate treatment such as a spinal tap, or fails to provide appropriate follow-up care. Meningococcal disease is often misdiagnosed as something less serious because early symptoms are similar to influenza, pneumonia, and other common viral illnesses.
Contact an Experienced Spinal Meningitis Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered brain damage or death as a result of medical malpractice related to spinal meningitis, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Jason Reese is a well-regarded Indiana medical malpractice lawyer who has extensive experience and a long track record of success representing clients in cases of medical malpractice. He understands the complexities of these cases and is committed to helping his clients seek the compensation they deserve.