Infant Meningitis and Your Baby
What you should know about the effects of this dangerous infection
Newborn babies can acquire meningitis through a virus or bacterial infection. In fact, anyone of any age can contract meningitis. However, newborns are at particularly high risk of suffering serious complications when infected. Meningitis occurs in approximately 300 to 400 out of every 100,000 births.
Infants can become infected in a number of ways including:
- Receiving the infection from the mother
- Acquiring Group B Streptococcal, Listeria, E coli, or other diseases
- Contacting a contaminated object
- From a serious and untreated ear infection
- From the mumps
Proactive and responsible medical professionals can treat meningitis that is acquired by various means, including those mentioned above. However, failure to do so for your child on the part of medical personnel can leave them open to a birth injury lawsuit.
What is infant meningitis?
Meningitis occurs when a bacterial or viral infection spreads to the brain and spinal fluid. Forms of bacterial meningitis include Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitis. These forms of the infection are considered more serious than viral meningitis. Although it was more common prior to the 1990s, Haemophilus influenza type B is another potential source of bacterial meningitis.
Viral meningitis typically resolves without treatment. However bacterial meningitis is highly dangerous and can potentially lead to birth injuries such as hearing loss, brain damage, and in the worst cases, even death.
Infant and mother exposed to bacteria
Doctors are responsible for testing pregnant women for different forms of bacteria they may be carrying, not only for their health, but also to protect the health of the unborn child. The mother who is infected can easily infect her baby.
It is vital that doctors test the mother between week 35 and 37 of her pregnancy. During that span of time the doctor can determine for certain whether the mother has Group B Strep. The baby can contract this bacterial infection by simply passing through the birth canal.
Exposure can also occur by coming into close or intimate contact with someone who has the infection – through kissing for example.
Group B strep – The most common cause of infant meningitis
Some cases of fungal and viral meningitis exist – but most are bacterial. More than 40 percent of all neonatal bacterial meningitis cases in the U.S. can be attributed to Group B Streptococcus.
Group B Strep is highly prevalent in the U.S. and most likely one of the reasons that so many meningitis cases are linked to this bacterial infection. Some 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women have a Group B Strep infection.
The risk of Group B Strep transmission to the infant, and subsequently meningitis, is significant if the mother is not properly diagnosed and treated in advance of delivery. When the woman is tested in the third trimester, as recommended, a positive test result should lead medical care professionals to provide the woman with antibiotics during labor to reduce the possibility of transmission to the infant.
Symptoms of the mother with Group B Strep
During pregnancy, many mothers are not aware they have Group B Strep. A great percentage of women retain the Group B Strep infection in the anus, vagina, and lower intestines without even realizing it. This is due to the fact that no symptoms are present that indicate the presence of the bacteria.
By testing the mother at 35 to 37 weeks as mentioned above, the Group B Strep infection can be caught in time to be dealt with through antibiotics, so the bacteria can be eliminated in time for delivery.
Symptoms of meningitis in infants
One danger of meningitis is that the symptoms are often subtle in the beginning, but become more serious when the condition is not diagnosed very early. When severe symptoms become apparent, the child may have already experienced premature disability, and in some cases death. Meningitis symptoms experienced by infants include:
- Problems breathing
- Lack of appetite
- Inconsistent body temperature
The symptoms mentioned above can certainly be associated with other conditions. Therefore, it is vital that medical professionals administer the appropriate tests on both the child and mother as soon as possible in order to determine if infant meningitis or another condition is present.
Health risks to the mother and child can be mitigated if proper tests are made and treatment is provided in a timely manner. If the doctor and other medical personnel fail in this duty, they can be held accountable for medical malpractice or negligence.
Treatment of infant meningitis
Due to the deadly nature of meningitis, once it is diagnosed it must be treated promptly with antimicrobial drugs. Any delay in treatment can lead to irreversible damage. The condition of meningitis can be confirmed by having a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) performed. Additional treatments for this condition include anticonvulsant medicine for the newborn having seizures and IV fluids.
It is important for the medical team to monitor the infant’s intracranial pressure which can indicate the presence of accumulated masses in the brain from the infection (cerebral abscesses) or excess cerebrospinal fluid (hydrocephalus), which can result in swelling of the head and severe brain injury.
If prompt treatment of meningitis is not performed, the bacteria from the infection can cause significant brain damage and even death. The infant that suffers brain damage from meningitis may develop cerebral palsy (paralysis in portions of the brain that control muscle movements to the body). In addition, the infant may require hearing and vision impairment, developmental disability, and seizure disorder if proper treatment for meningitis is not provided or delayed.
These are many of the injuries our clients’ children have sustained
Legal support for families of infants suffering from meningitis
At Crandall & Pera Law, we understand the tough battle you are facing if your child has acquired a birth injury in any form, including infant meningitis. We have extensive experience helping families recover compensation due to the negligence of medical professionals. To set up a free consultation about your case at one of our offices in Ohio or Kentucky, complete our contact form or call us today at 877.955.0020.