Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes, or meninges, surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Easily mistaken as the flu, signs of meningitis may develop over several hours or one to two days. Symptoms usually include severe headaches, stiff neck, sudden high fever, vomiting, and confusion. There may be additional symptoms of nausea, seizures, drowsiness, sensitivity to light, lack of interest in eating and drinking, and, in some instances, a purplish skin rash.
Viral meningitis may improve without treatment, but bacterial meningitis is much more serious and demands prompt antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, bacterial meningitis can be fatal in just days. Each year, meningococcal disease—a form of bacterial meningitis—is contracted by approximately 600-1,000 people in the United States. Ten to 15 percent of those cases end in death. Of those who survive, approximately 20 percent suffer permanent disabilities, such as brain damage, hearing loss, memory loss, learning disabilities, problems walking, seizures, kidney failure, limb amputations, or even death. Twenty-one percent of all meningococcal disease cases occur in preteens, teens, and young adults ages eleven to twenty-four.
There is no way of knowing if someone has bacterial meningitis without seeing a doctor to test blood cultures and spinal fluid, along with performing X-rays and CT scans. Bacterial meningitis typically occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and migrate to the spinal cord and brain but can also be caused by a sinus or ear infection, skull fracture, or occur following a surgery. Delayed treatment or misdiagnosis of any type of meningitis heightens the risk of permanent damage.
If you or a loved one contracted meningitis and suffered severe injury or death due to a delayed or missed diagnosis or contaminated medication, contact a medical malpractice lawyer at Kline & Specter today.