Central Nervous System Infections (CNS) Lawsuit

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Central nervous system (CNS) infections are not as common as other infections attributed to hospital stays, but they do occur. There are several different types of CNS infections in general, but a few specific ones pose a risk to hospital and medical care facility patients. If you or a loved one has been admitted to the hospital or is a resident in a long-term care facility or nursing home, you should be aware of your risks and understand what can be done to reduce this risk. In many cases, CNS infections and other hospital infections are avoidable if staff and patients are vigilant with hygiene and environmental cleanliness.

Types of Central Nervous System Infections that Post a Risk in Hospitals

Fungal Meningitis

Fungal meningitis is not contagious, but instead develops after a fungus spreads into the bloodstream. Hospital patients are especially susceptible to fungal meningitis because of their weakened immune systems. Surgery and the administration of certain medications mean a person’s health is compromised and he or she is at risk for contracting diseases or infections that might not otherwise be an issue. Fungal meningitis can also be a problem for premature babies.

Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is different from fungal meningitis because it is extremely contagious and usually quite severe. The majority of people suffering from a bacterial meningitis infection recover, but they experience serious side effects, such as hearing loss, brain damage, or developmental disabilities. Bacterial meningitis cases in the United States are typically caused by germs including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis, Group B Streptococcus, Escherichia coli, or Listeria monocytogenes.

Certain risk factors increase a person’s chances of contracting bacterial meningitis. These include age, certain medical conditions, and the setting in which you spend time. For instance, meningitis spreads faster in places where large groups of people are living in close quarters, so it is easy to understand why hospitals and medical care facilities would be affected.

Symptoms of bacterial meningitis usually arise within a week of exposure and include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Sensitivity to light

Some types of meningitis can be prevented through vaccine, so it is important to make sure you are up-to-date on vaccinations if you are scheduled for surgery or admitted to the hospital. Patients can ask their doctors to check their immunization records to determine if they have received vaccines for Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus), Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Antibiotics can also be effective for preventing contraction of certain types of bacterial meningitis after exposure. Keeping your immune system strong and healthy is your best defense against this and other central nervous system infections, but is not always an option when a person is in need of medical care.

Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is usually less serious than its bacterial counterpart. It is often caused by enteroviruses, but can also develop following a bout with flu, measles, or viruses spread by rodents or insects. Children younger than five years of age and those with compromised immune systems, especially those undergoing chemotherapy or organ or bone marrow transplants, experience the greatest risk.

Enteroviruses are usually spread from person to person through fecal contamination, but might also spread through the respiratory secretions of an infected person.

Symptoms of viral meningitis are similar to bacterial meningitis and include:

  • Sudden onset of fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of appetitite
  • Sensitivity to light

Viral meningitis can be prevented by limiting the spread of viral infections. Common sense methods of hygiene are extremely effective for protecting oneself from the infection. Thorough hand washing, especially after using the bathroom, coughing or blowing the nose, or changing diapers is the most important step in preventing the spread of the infection.

As a patient in the hospital, it is within your rights to request that everyone providing you care wash his or her hands before coming into contact with you. It is also important for you to keep your hands free of germs, so request assistance with hand washing if necessary.

Hospital infections, in general, are extremely common. Recent reports show that one in every 25 people admitted to the hospital develops some sort of infection. Sadly, many of these infections, including CNS infections, are preventable.

If you are exposed to a CNS infection during your hospital stay and it results in severe consequences, you have the right to take legal action. If you or a loved one develops a CNS infection, it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney. He or she can help you understand your rights and help you determine if you are entitled to compensation for your suffering due to the infection.

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