A Difficult Diagnosis

10 Apr

Early symptoms of meningococcal disease can be non-specific and similar to those of other illnesses like flu. However, as we’ve mentioned before, meningitis can then make someone very sick, very fast.

Symptoms VisualThis means that quickly and accurately diagnosing meningococcal disease can be challenging, even for veteran healthcare professionals. We spoke with a few doctors about their personal experiences with this terrible disease:

“If a patient comes in with a high fever, stiff neck and the typical rash, most physicians will make a meningococcal disease diagnosis very quickly. But that typical presentation only happened in a very small proportion of our cases.” – Peter Johnsen, MD, Director of Medical Services, Princeton University

“I was told about an infant who returned with a new rash, after being seen and diagnosed with a virus hours earlier. The emergency medicine physician treating this infant on his return, who had more than 25 years of emergency department experience, realized the baby was sick but did not recognize the rash as typical of meningococcemia. Despite appropriate antibiotics, the infant died within 90 minutes after being admitted to the pediatric ICU.” – Paul Lee, MD, pediatric attending physician, Winthrop-University Hospital

“We need to be vigilant in our training of young doctors so they are aware of the signs. They need to know that many cases won’t look like the textbook examples of meningitis or meningococcemia when they walk in the door.” – Carol Baker, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist and vaccine expert, Texas Children’s Hospital

Thankfully, we can help prevent the need for some of these diagnoses, we can vaccinate. Please talk to your doctor about this disease and its symptoms. Ask them if your children are up-to-date on the vaccine against serogroups A, C, W, and Y and about having your teens #BVaccinated.


This post is part of the #BVaccinated series based on NMA’s report, Beyond the Science: Putting a Face on Meningococcal Disease. As national policy regarding serogroup B meningococcal vaccination is discussed and implemented, NMA urges all those involved to consider these perspectives. We believe that routinely vaccinating our children against this disease is the right thing to do.

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One Response to “A Difficult Diagnosis”

  1. Christy Spindler April 11, 2015 at 8:24 pm #

    Dr. Carol Baker, Texas Children’s Hospital is 100% right on her statement she made. Lives could be saved if health professionals were more educated on this horrific, fast moving disease. I know too well from my personal experience. Having lost my son to meningococcal disease because the physician in charge had very little to no knowledge on meningococcal disease, therefore delaying treatment for many hours, which led to my son’s death. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate, educate and vaccinate!

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