Friday, March 28, 2008

As if I don't have enough gray hair already!

I went away for the week to visit family in another state, taking only my youngest son with me. On day 2 of what SHOULD have been a relaxing week, I received an email from my middle son entitled simply "Bad news"

Something more descriptive would have saved me serious agony for the brief time between seeing that flash across my screen and opening the email. I envisioned all sorts of ACTUAL bad news. I nearly laughed when I read the email.

"possible meningitis exposure" -- so much less dire than the possibilities which had flashed through my mind.

The staff in the ER at his hospital had joked that, given the number of people potentially exposed, they should just take over a floor and take care of each other.

Meningococcal Meningitis is certainly nothing to laugh about. According to the World Health Organization, 5-15% of patients die, often within 48 hours of diagnosis and 10-20% of survivors have some serious sequelae. It's not exactly a rare disease - the CDC reports an incidence of 0.3-1/100,000, with the majority of cases in infants.

Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and frequently a macular rash (flat red spots). It is diagnosed by taking a sample of spinal fluid to the lab for testing. Normal spinal fluid is clear. Spinal fluid from a person with bacterial meningitis will almost always be cloudy.

Good son that one. He had showered and tossed his uniform in the washer as soon as he got home from work. He really just wanted to know if he needed to stay away from his father and brother until he knew whether he'd actually been exposed. Since the incubation period is 2-10 days for meningococcal meningitis (average is 4) and since he would have preliminary results in under 24 hours - plenty of time for prophylactic antibiotics - I assured him that he didn't need to worry about them. Better news for all concerned, the patient tested negative.

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