Has Your Baby Been Diagnosed with Meningitis while in a Hospital?

by Christa Carpenter
Attorney and Registered Nurse

Having a newborn is both a joyous and a stressful time. But having a sick infant diagnosed with meningitis can be a devastating time for babies and parents. Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and surrounding membranes such as the spinal cord, usually caused by an infection. The infection causes these structures to inflame. In babies, meningitis often has devastating consequences and negatively affects long term growth and development. In fact, up to 50% of infants who are diagnosed with meningitis will be neurologically impaired for the rest of their lives, with 25% of those infants having severe disability.

Infections caused by hospitals are commonly called “nosocomial” infections, or hospital-acquired infections. Oftentimes these infections are preventable through reasonable care and safe patient care practices. Commonly associated risk factors of nosocomial infections include equipment and treatments that can introduce bacteria into your baby’s bloodstream.

Meningitis in newborns can be viral or bacterial. Viral meningitis can be caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV), influenza, varicella-zoster virus, measles and mumps, and enteroviruses. Bacterial meningitis can be caused by Group B streptococcus, E. coli, streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae type B, Listeria monocytogenes, and Neisseria meningitidis. In babies less than 3 months of age, group B streptococcus is the most common cause. The second most common cause in this population is E. coli.

In babies who develop meningitis, oftentimes they have signs and symptoms of infection that can be detected before the infection spreads to the brain. Signs and symptoms of neonatal infection or sepsis (infection in the blood) that can lead to meningitis are:

  1. Fever or hypothermia
  2. Irritability or lethargy
  3. Photosensitivity
  4. Hypotonia
  5. Feeding intolerance or vomiting
  6. Respiratory distress
  7. Apnea
  8. Bradycardia
  9. Hypotension
  10. Poor perfusion
  11. Seizures
  12. Bulging fontanels
  13. Nuchal rigidity (stiff neck)
  14. Jaundice
  15. Hypo or hyperglycemia
  16. Diarrhea

Risk factors for neonatal or newborn meningitis unfortunately include things that are present in a hospital or neonatal intensive care unit, such as:

  1. Invasive fetal monitoring and treatment such as a breathing tube (ventilator) and catheters in the arteries or veins
  2. Presence of external devices such as reservoirs or shunts

Prevention of the spread of an infection to sepsis and/or meningitis in a newborn depends on quick detection of concerning signs or symptoms. The occurrence of meningitis in and of itself is often preventable and leads to questions such as, “What signs and symptoms did my baby’s healthcare providers miss before we got to this point?”

If your newborn infant has been diagnosed with meningitis while a patient in a hospital, please give us a call today at: 727-281-4357. Our team of doctors, nurses, and medical malpractice attorneys can evaluate your case with expert eyes at no cost to you.

The Patient’s Law Firm represents patients injured by medical malpractice and nursing home negligence throughout Florida and Tampa Bay including Pinellas County, Pasco County, and Hillsborough County.