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Can Bacterial Meningitis Be Caused by Medical Negligence?

Fairfax Medical Malpractice Lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates Advocate for Clients With Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is a serious and dangerous infection and a medical emergency. Bacterial meningitis progresses quickly and requires immediate and appropriate treatment to prevent permanent injury or death. Negligent actions and dangerous mistakes by medical professionals causing bacterial meningitis are considered medical malpractice.

What Is Bacterial Meningitis?

Bacterial meningitis is a deadly infection affecting the meninges, three layers of membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis causes the brain and spinal cord to swell, which can be life-threatening or permanently disabling without immediate treatment.

Bacterial meningitis is highly contagious with quick onset of symptoms and can result in severe consequences, including permanent brain damage, hearing loss, and death. Due to its severity, diagnosis and treatment are needed quickly; however, the disease is often misdiagnosed as a different form of meningitis or a disease with similar symptoms. When misdiagnosed, patients are administered the wrong medications or treatment, worsening the infection and symptoms and often leading to death.

What Causes Bacterial Meningitis?

Good and bad bacteria are everywhere and quickly spread through multiple different means. Bacterial meningitis can be caused by numerous types of bacteria, including:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Group B Streptococcus
  • Haemophilus influenzae
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Neisseria meningitidis
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae

How Is Bacterial Meningitis Spread?

Bacteria and germs are typically spread through person-to-person contact. However, certain types, including Listeria monocytogenes or E. coli, can spread through food. Group B streptococcus or E. coli bacteria are passed from mother to baby during birth. Certain factors pose a higher risk of bacterial meningitis, such as:

  • Age, especially infants under 1 and children ages 16 to 21.
  • Travel to regions with higher rates of bacterial meningitis, such as Africa.
  • Medical conditions, including HIV, head injury, CSF leak, or removed spleen.
  • Group settings.
  • College students living in close quarters.
  • Professions, such as microbiologists working with meningitis-causing pathogens.

What Are the Symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis?

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis appear quickly, typically within a couple of hours or up to two days, and include but are not limited to:

  • Altered mental state or confusion
  • Bruising easily over the whole body
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • High fever
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Seizures in advanced stages
  • Skin rash
  • Stiff neck with limited range of motion
  • Vomiting, sometimes severe

Symptoms in newborns may differ and include but are not limited to:

  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Frequent crying
  • Irritability
  • Lack of appetite or poor feeding
  • Little or no activity
  • Seizures
  • Swelling of the head
  • Vomiting

If you think you or your child may have symptoms of meningitis, you should go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Diagnosis involves a physical exam, assessment of symptoms, blood cultures, chest X-rays, head CT scans, and a lumbar puncture to collect spinal fluid for bacteria testing.

How Is Bacterial Meningitis Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Immediate treatment typically involves antibiotics, corticosteroids to decrease swelling and inflammation, intravenous fluids for dehydration, and close monitoring of neurological status. Bacterial meningitis is considered medical malpractice when medical professionals’ actions, or lack of actions, cause extreme and potentially irreversible harm.

Examples of bacterial meningitis due to medical malpractice include:

  • Failure to recognize early warning signs or symptoms.
  • Failure to perform a spinal tap on a patient exhibiting symptoms.
  • Failure to administer intravenous antibiotics following spinal tap or blood samples.
  • Failure to appropriately monitor for increased intracranial pressure.
  • Failure to medically or surgically intervene during increasing intracranial pressure to prevent catastrophic brain injury or death.
  • Misinterpreting test results.
  • Misdiagnosis, leading to further harm or injury.

When such circumstances occur, bacterial meningitis can result in long-term seizures, brain damage, hearing and vision loss, permanent disability, and loss of limbs. Infected newborns may suffer from permanent disabilities, such as developmental and speech delays, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disorders.

Fairfax Medical Malpractice Lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates Advocate for Clients With Bacterial Meningitis

If you or a loved one was seriously injured from bacterial meningitis due to medical negligence, our experienced Fairfax medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates will help. Call 202-223-4488 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Washington, D.C., we serve clients in the surrounding areas.

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