Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Risks Presented By GBS and Meningitis For Newborns

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), Group B Strep is the major prevalent cause of sepsis and meningitis (a severe infection of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the brain) in newborns. Group B Strep is a bacterial infection that may affect an infant if the mother is is colonized with the bacteria and transmits it during childbirth.

The bacteria normally germinates in the vagina and/or the lower intestine. It is found in about 1 out of every 4 adult women. However, it usually does not lead to an active infection or lead to symptoms. Transmission from expecting mother to the baby generally occurs during labor and delivery. The child may be exposed to group b strep, for instance, if the bacteria moves up from the mother's vagina into the uterus after the membranes (bag of water) rupture. The newborn may also come in contact with GBS while moving down through the birth canal. In this time, the newborn can swallow or inhale the bacteria.

Around 75% of cases of Group b strep in newborns take place during the seven days of life, and the majority show up inside of a few hours following birth. This is called "early onset." The rest develop a GBS infection at anytime from one week to several months after birth. This is called as "late onset." Statistically, approximately fifty percent of instances of late onset can be related to the baby's mother having had the bacteria. In the other cases of late onset, the cause of the infection is unknown.

After the infant is exposed to the bacteria, it may travel to the infant's bloodstream. This may induce sepsis (overpowering infection throughout the body), pneumonia, or meningitis. These are all severe conditions which can progress rapidly and leave the infant with lifelong disabilities or may even cause the newborn's death. Among the typical possible disabilities are: brain damage, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, and seizures.

The most common symptoms of meningitis include: a high fever, lethargy, unusual irritability, trouble feeding, stiffness, vomiting, and rashes. Since the infection can advance quickly quick treatment is needed to avoid significant harm to the newborn. For bacterial based meningitis (such as that caused by Group B Strep), treatment calls for the immediate administration of intravenous IV and antibiotics. A diagnosis of meningitis is established through a sample of spinal fluid through a spinal tap and growing the bacteria for correct identification. This is important so as to determine the right antibiotic for use. The outcome of the test might take several hours. In the time it takes for the results, the infection can result in lasting damage or kill the child. Because of the immediacy required, treatment normally begins ahead of a confirmed diagnosis if meningitis is a possible explanation for the baby's symptoms. Penicillin is the most commonly administered treatment.

If an infant died or suffers from permanent disabilities that were avoidable except for the failure on the part of a physician to diagnose GBS meningitis or to provide immediate treatment that doctor might be liable for malpractice. The mothers and fathers of children thus injured by GBS meningitis should consult with a birth injury attorney immediately as the law permits just a limited amount of time to pursue a birth injury claim.

by: Joseph Hernandez
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