Meningitis and Slow Use of Antibiotics

Tardy use of antibiotics when a patient is suffering from bacterial meningitis can be fatal. Although indiscriminate use of antibiotics has resulted in “superbugs,” infections which do not respond to antibiotics, there can be a catastrophic risk to individuals with meningitis, sepsis, or other fatal infections when antibiotics are not administered quickly enough.

Some bacterial meningitis numbers:


  • Between 600 and 1,000 people contract meningitis each year, and, of those, 10-15 percent will die.
  • Among the patients who live through meningitis, one in five will live with a permanent disability, such as loss of kidney function, loss of hearing, brain damage or amputation of limbs.
  • Nearly a fourth of all those who develop meningitis will be pre-teens, teenagers and young adults (ages 11-24).
  • One in five teenagers across the United States have not yet received the meningococcal vaccine, therefore are unprotected.
  • Less than a third of teens who received the first dose of meningococcal vaccine failed to receive the recommended booster dose.


What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is caused by inflammation of the protective membranes, which cover the brain and spinal cord, and is often triggered by an infection of the fluids surrounding the brain and spinal cord. There are five basic types of meningitis: bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic and non-infectious. The severity of the illness and the treatment will be dependent on the cause, however bacterial meningitis is severe and life-threatening, often leading to brain damage, learning disabilities and hearing loss among those who live through the disease.


Approximately 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis occurred in the United States between 2003 and 2007, with 500 resulting deaths. Bacterial meningitis can be spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions. The sudden onset of a fever, headache and stiff neck, sometimes accompanied by lack of alertness, sensitivity to light, confusion, nausea and vomiting are classic symptoms of bacterial meningitis. If diagnosed correctly and in a timely manner, bacterial meningitis can be treated effectively with antibiotics. In fact, the appropriate use of antibiotics can reduce the risk of death or long-term adverse consequences to below 15 percent.


Viral meningitis is much less serious and usually resolves on its own. Viral meningitis does not respond to antibiotics. Fungal meningitis is very rare in the United States, and is most often seen in Africa. Fungal meningitis is not contagious and requires anti-fungal medications rather than antibiotics. Parasitic meningitis is also extremely rare, however when present, causes a fatal brain infection. The parasite which causes parasitic meningitis if found in warm freshwater locations, primarily in southern states in the U.S, in hot springs, in warm water discharge from industrial plants, or in poorly maintained swimming pools. Between 1962 and 2011, only one person in the United States of the 123 infected with parasitic meningitis survived.


Slow Use of Antibiotics When Meningitis is Present Can Lead to Death

Although scientists and health professionals are now advocating a more cautious use of antibiotic drugs, when a serious infection like bacterial meningitis is suspected, antibiotics must be quickly administered to prevent serious repercussions. As a parent, make sure your teenager has received the meningococcal vaccination as well as the follow-up booster. If you believe your child is ill, but your doctor brushes off your concerns, get a second opinion—and a third and fourth, when necessary. You are your own best health advocate as well as your child’s health advocate and must be proactive about receiving the correct medical treatment.


If you believe you or a loved one suffered serious injury or death due to a significant delay in the administration of necessary antibiotics, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area who will be your advocate. It is important to have a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney by your side who truly cares about the outcome of your case and is dedicated to protecting your rights.


Contact Washington DC Medical Malpractice Lawyers

At Patrick Malone & Associates, our medical malpractice lawyers have extensive experience representing injured patients and families in Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland. If you or someone you love has been injured because of a misdiagnosis of meningitis or a failure to diagnose meningitis, we can help. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or 1-888-625-6645 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.


The medical malpractice attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, and many other places in Maryland and Virginia.