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Group B Strep (GBS) & Bacterial Meningitis

Information You Need to Know About Group B Strep (GBS) and Bacterial Meningitis

Facts About Group B Strep (GBS) and Bacterial Meningitis

What is Bacterial Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining (membranes) around the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis (BM) is a very serious form of meningitis and can be potentially life-threatening. Advanced bacterial meningitis can lead to coma, brain damage and death.

It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that bacterial meningitis occurs in about 3,000-5,000 Americans each year and approximately 20-25% of these cases are fatal. When BM progresses rapidly, more than half of those who have it will die. The bacteria associated with bacterial meningitis normally live in the mouth and throat, but when the immune system cannot suppress these bacteria, they travel to the cerebrospinal fluid, which affects the brain and spinal cord.

What is Group B Strep (GBS)?

Group B Strep (GBS) is a bacteria also known as Streptococcus agalactiae.   It is an especially dangerous type of bacteria that can cause bacterial meningitis in infants. It can be found in the vagina of women or around the rectum. Women who test positive for GBS are said to be “colonized,” and a pregnant woman with colonization of GBS can pass the bacteria to her baby during delivery. GBS can cause serious, life-threatening infections in newborns including bacterial meningitis. An astonishing one out of every 2,000 babies is affected by GBS.

There is a routine test that obstetricians can perform to detect the presence of this bacteria in pregnant women. Every single pregnant woman should be tested for GBS. If the culture comes back positive for GBS, options such as a C-section must be explored. Antibiotics can be administered prophylactically to prevent the bacteria from ever affecting the fetus or baby. If the routine screening is not performed, the infant can develop bacterial meningitis, which can cause:

  • Lethargy
  • Poor feeding
  • Vomiting
  • Listlessness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Jaundice
  • Shock

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial, and bacterial meningitis can be treated with antibiotics if caught early enough. Failure to test for GBS and treat patients correctly and in a timely manner is a serious medical mistake that may result in life threatening symptoms and potential long-term complications such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, hearing loss, seizures and paralysis. Infants who are affected by bacterial meningitis are not the only victims. Families suffer incredible emotional and financial strains. If your child contracted bacterial meningitis because you were not properly screened, then you may have a valid medical malpractice claim against the treating obstetrician or pediatrician.

Bacterial Meningitis in Children and Adults

In children and adults, bacterial meningitis is often caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis or Streptococcus pneumoniae. The onset of BM can occur several ways. It can be the result of an infection by bacteria already present in the nose and mouth. It can be caused by the spread of infections occurring near the brain, such as an ear infection, or it can be spread via respiratory and throat secretions.

Proper and expedient diagnosis of bacterial meningitis is critical in guiding the treatment decisions and improving the prognosis of the patient. Because bacterial meningitis can become fatal in only a few hours, treatment must be started before receiving results from diagnostic tests or spinal tap.

Patients suffering from Bacterial Meningitis may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Persistent high fevers
  • Severe headaches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy or drowsiness that gets progressively worse

If someone you know complains of these symptoms, you must get him/her to an emergency room immediately. You must inquire as to whether Bacterial Meningitis may be a possible diagnosis if your doctor never mentions it. If your doctor does not order the necessary tests to detect Bacterial Meningitis, then you may have a medical malpractice case.

What to Do Following a Group B Strep (GBS) or Bacterial Meningitis Misdiagnosis

If doctors fail to properly diagnose and treat their patients correctly and in a timely manner, then they must be held accountable for their failure to provide the standard of care which all patients are owed. If you or someone you love was not properly diagnosed and treated for Group B Strep (GBS) Meningitis or other forms of Bacterial Meningitis and now suffer from brain damage as a result, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim.

The experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate medical malpractice attorneys at Weiss & Paarz, P.C have successfully handled several cases of Group B Strep (GBS) Meningitis and other forms of Bacterial Meningitis and have helped countless victims of medical mistakes get the compensation they need to afford the lifelong care that is often necessary following these types of medical errors. Contact us today to schedule a no-cost, confidential consultation so we may hear the details of your case and explain your options.

*The firm handles cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For cases outside those states, New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers Weiss & Paarz work with local attorneys in the state where the medical care took place, at no additional cost to the client.