Meningitis misdiagnosis negligence claims


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Even when it is diagnosed quickly and correctly, meningitis can be an extremely devastating and debilitating disease. As an experienced medical negligence solicitor, we know the impact a meningitis misdiagnosis can have on the patient as well as the family.

If you would like to learn more about how CL Legal can help you make a meningitis-related negligence claim, contact us today on 0151 440 2500 or complete our quick claim form now to request a call back.

Meningitis can affect anyone, of any age, at any time. In the UK there is an estimated 9,000 new cases of meningitis every year, 1 in 10 of which prove to be fatal and a third leave the sufferer with a life-long after effects.

To help you better understand meningitis, and your rights to claim for compensation for a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis, read our full guide below…

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Different types of meningitis

There are a lot of different types and strains of meningitis, including:

  • Viral meningitis
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Pneumococcal meningitis
  • TB meningitis
  • Group B streptococcal

Viral meningitis

Viral meningitis is perhaps the most common form of meningitis, with thousand of cases every year mostly affecting babies and toddlers.

Most sufferers will experience a full recovery of viral meningitis, although some are left with life-changing after-effects such as memory loss, headaches and fatigue.

Bacterial meningitis

A case of bacterial meningitis requires the immediate admission to hospital, as it can be very severe and leave patients with a variety of serious after-effects.

There are several different types of bacteria that can cause meningitis when they invade the body, these are:

  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • TB
  • Group B

Meningococcal disease

This is a life-threatening infection that can form both meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning), either on their own or more commonly at the same time.

Meningococcal disease is the most common form of bacterial meningitis in the UK, with approximately 1,500 new cases reported every year. Around 7% of meningococcal disease cases prove to be fatal, although most patients will make a full recovery if treated quickly enough. Some can suffer life-altering after-effects such as deafness and blindness.

Pneumococcal meningitis

This is a less common, but more dangerous, form of bacterial meningitis that is fatal for around 15% of all sufferers.

Pneumococcal meningitis causes inflammation of the meninges that surround the spine and brain. The meninges are layers that protect the brain from injury and infection.

There are only around 200 cases of pneumococcal meningitis in the UK each year, with babies, young children, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions affecting the immune system most at risk.

TB meningitis

This type of meningitis is caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis.

The tuberculosis infection usually begins in the lungs, but about 2% of those cases develop into TB meningitis. Around 20% of TB meningitis will suffer after-effects, which can include severe brain damage, hearing loss, epilepsy and paralysis – and tragically 15-30% of sufferers will die.

Group B streptococcal

Group B streptococcal – or GBS – is split into ‘early onset’ and ‘late onset’, depending on the length of time between birth and contracting the disease.

GBS is a form of neo-natal bacterial meningitis and is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae, which usually live harmlessly in the intestinal tract or vagina.

There are approximately 250 cases of GBS each year, with around 10% being fatal.

Meningitis causes

Meningitis is commonly caused by infection – which can be viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, or other particular organisms. The most common cause of meningitis is a viral infection, although contracting bacterial meningitis is often more serious and dangerous.

There are several different viruses that can lead to the contraction of meningitis, these include:

  • meningococcal bacteria – of which there are several different types – A, B, C, W, X, Y and Z
  • pneumococcal bacteria
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria
  • enteroviruses – these viruses generally only cause a mild stomach infection
  • the mumps virus
  • the herpes simplex virus – which usually causes cold sores or genital herpes

A weak immune system or certain anatomical defects are linked to recurrent bacterial meningitis. In the majority of meningitis cases the cause is a virus, however, some non-infectious causes of meningitis also exist.

Is meningitis contagious?

The viruses and bacteria that can cause meningitis are usually spread by people who carry them in their throat or nose, by:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Kissing
  • Sharing toothbrushes, utensils, cutlery etc…

Meningitis is usually spread by people who are carrying the virus/bacteria, but haven’t actually contracted meningitis. It is possible for meningitis sufferers to pass on the illness, but this is quite rare.

Although anyone is at risk of contracting meningitis, it is most common in:

  • babies and young children
  • young adults/teenagers
  • the elderly
  • those with a weak immune system

Meningitis symptoms

Early signs of meningitis can include:

  • Fever
  • Cold hands and/or feet with fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain

Someone who has meningitis can get worse very quickly, so it is important to seek medical advice when these early symptoms prevent themselves.

Symptoms of meningitis can occur in any order, and some may not appear at all. Below are the most common symptoms and signs of meningitis:

  • Fever, cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsy and difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Pale and blotchy skin
  • Severe headache – sensitivity to bright light
  • Stiff neck
  • Convulsions and seizures

A clear sign of meningococcal septicaemia is a rash that doesn’t fade when put under pressure. The rash is often initially little ‘pin pricks’ that can develop into purple bruising. If you are unsure, you can carry out the ‘glass test’ to see if the rash fades under pressure:

  • Press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin
  • Spots/rash may fade at first
  • Keep checking
  • Fever with spots/rash that do not fade under pressure is a medical emergency

Meningitis after-effects

Most people who catch meningitis survive without any long-lasting ill effects. However, for some people there can be long-term and life-long after-effects linked with meningitis. Meningitis after-effects can include:

  • Memory loss / difficulty retaining information / lack of concentration
  • Clumsiness / co-ordination problems
  • Residual headaches
  • Deafness / hearing problems / tinnitus / dizziness, loss of balance
  • Learning difficulties (ranging from temporary learning deficiencies to long term mental impairment)
  • Epilepsy / seizures (fits)
  • Weakness, paralysis or spasms of part of body (if permanent, sometimes called cerebral palsy)
  • Speech problems
  • Loss of sight/changes in sight

The likelihood of a patient suffering from meningitis after-effects depends on a variety of factors such as the type and severity of the illness.

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