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Deadly Cryptococcal Meningitis Misdiagnosed as Influenza

Gerald May 1, 2012

Cryptococcal meningitis, as distinguished from gram-negative, H. influenza, meningococcal, pneumococcal, staphylococcal, and tuberculous variations of meningitis, is a fungus infecting the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord which originates from soil in various places around the world.  This condition usually attacks people who are predisposed to infection because of compromised immune systems.  Suppressed immune systems are caused in those who have undergone solid organ transplants, who are HIV-AIDS positive, who have lymphoma, and who are diabetic.  In organ transplant recipients, cryptococcal meningitis is one of the three most common forms of fungal infections in the post-transplant period. This form of meningitis develops slowly over days or weeks, and can show symptoms of stiff neck, fever, headache, mental status change, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations and sensitivity to light.  A fast heart rate may present upon examination.  Although cryptococcal meningitis was once almost always deadly, the use of intravenous amphotericin B (often in combination with 5-flucytosine taken orally) and other medicinal therapies has changed the patient-outcome landscape significantly. Testing for any patient with suspected meningitis should include a lumbar puncture or “spinal tap” for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that can be tested.  Other tests may include blood test/culture, chest x-ray, head CT, and CSF stain or culture.  Still, untimely diagnosis and treatment can result in death, brain damage, seizures, hearing loss, and hydrocephalus with the potential of causing dementia. Young children are particularly vulnerable.  A young child suffering from meningitis may exhibit feeding difficulties, high-pitched cry, irritability, and a persistent, unexplained fever.  If you suspect a young child has meningitis, please go to an emergency room immediately for urgent treatment and diagnosis.  If you or someone you know is inflicted with any form of meningitis, please seek emergency medical attention immediately as meningitis can quickly become a life-threatening disease.  In addition, you may want to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer to determine if appropriate and timely treatment was rendered. Usually this consultation with a Florida medical malpractice lawyer is free and should always remain confidential.

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