A, a 5-year-old boy, came home from kindergarten with a high fever and a rash, complaining of throbbing knee pain. Meirav, his mother, took A to the family doctor, who recommended acetaminophen. After taking the medicine, A’s temperature went down, but by the next morning it was back. Even worse, A couldn’t walk.
The family doctor was concerned and didn’t like the unusual rash that had developed on A’s body. He insisted that the family go to an emergency room immediately. Meirav rushed A to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, because of the excellent pediatric emergency rooms. The ER team suspected a serious infection and sprang into action: a spinal tap and blood tests and treatments for invasive meningococcal disease were requested.
When the culture was analyzed, the results confirmed the doctors’ hunch that A had invasive meningococcal disease, also knows as cerebrospinal meningitis, a contagious illness caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. In this rare and often fatal disease, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. The disease spreads so quickly that even those who manage to survive it may be left with disabilities that include deafness, brain damage, and neurological problems. Babies, children, and teens are at a greater risk of death.
“Every year, children die from this disease. We have reported the case to the Ministry of Health to figure out where such a dangerous bacterium came from,” said Prof. Yackov Berkun, head of the Pediatrics Department at Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus and a subspecialist in Pediatric Rheumatology.
Meningococcal disease is also contagious. Everyone who was in close or prolonged contact with A, at kindergarten and members of his family, have to be examined and will remain under close supervision. There is a prophylactic treatment, but not a vaccine for the strain of bacteria that A had.
“It’s a rare disease and extremely dangerous,” said Prof. Berkun. “We were handling a medical emergency. We were deeply concerned, but pleased to see [the infected child] responding to the early and correct treatment.”
A, while still receiving medication, was released from the hospital after a two-week hospitalization with a good prognosis.
“We are so fortunate that we came to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus. This was a miracle. We can’t thank the fast-acting and professional staff enough,” said Meirav.