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What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by the germs from a bacterial or viral infection.

Viral meningitis can be very unpleasant but it is almost never life threatening and most people make a full recovery.

Bacterial meningitis is the more serious of the two and if not diagnosed and treated promptly can lead to fatal consequences. Most cases of bacterial meningitis are caused by a bacterium called meningococcus.

Who is most likely to suffer from meningitis?

Anyone can get meningitis but babies and children under 5 are most at risk.

How do you get meningitis?

Meningococcus is a common germ living in the nose and throat of approximately 25% of the population.

Rarely, this bacterium overcomes the body’s immune system and enters the bloodstream to cause meningitis.

Most cases of meningococcal infection are isolated cases. The risk of others catching it is low as many people are carriers and/or have natural immunity.

What are the signs of meningitis?

Meningitis can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms can sometimes be confused with other less serious illnesses such as flu.

However, signs can include symptoms such as a severe headache, vomiting, high temperature, stiff neck and sensitivity to light. A distinctive and blotchy red rash can also develop but not in every case.

What is the treatment?

Bacterial meningitis needs to be treated urgently in hospital with antibiotics.

Blood tests and a sample of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord may be taken. These tests aim to confirm the diagnosis and to see which germ is causing the infection.

What are the effects of meningitis?

The outlook often depends on how soon antibiotics are given after the illness starts.
However, there are several complications that may occur after having meningitis.

These include: –

  • Brain damage

  • Learning difficulties

  • Behavioural problems

  • Hearing or vision loss

  • Loss of limbs

Can I claim compensation?

If there is a delay in treatment a patient may soon become very ill. Bacterial meningitis can prove to be fatal within a matter of hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

Therefore, time is of the essence when it comes to treating bacterial meningitis. Doctors must take note of a patient’s symptoms and carry out appropriate tests to ensure a correct diagnosis is made.

If medical professionals do make errors there may be a case of medical negligence. This is usually as a result of: –

  • Failing to carry out the necessary tests;

  • Misdiagnosis;

  • Delay in diagnosis;

  • Failing to provide emergency treatment.

How can we help?

At Novum Law we offer free initial advice on claims of this kind. If you believe that you or any member of your family have a potential claim then let us assess your case. You can rest assured that we will deal with your enquiry without any initial cost or obligation.