Oregon mom raises awareness after baby dies from meningitis
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Summer Poff knew something was wrong with her 7-month-old son, Blaize, early in the morning on May 11.
He was fussy, feverish and wouldn’t go to sleep. The Salem mom tried to soothe her baby and gave him Tylenol, but at 3 a.m, she knew she needed to take him to the hospital.
She said staff at Legacy Silverton Medical Center also treated Blaize with Tylenol. They sent him home after a few hours, despite her concerns.
At the time, she didn’t “think they should’ve sent him home,” she said.
Over the next few hours, Blaize’s fever and fussiness persisted. Something wasn’t right. Poff rushed him back to the hospital, and he was flown to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
His condition quickly deteriorated.
Blaize’s heart stopped. He was resuscitated and put into an induced coma. Doctors considered surgery.
“They tried everything they possibly could,” Poff said.
Before the end of the day, her son had died from bacterial meningitis, a contagious, sometimes deadly, infection.
Poff spent her first Mother’s Day in shock, planning the cremation and memorial for her once smiling, happy first-born.
“No mother should feel the way I feel right now,” she said.
Brian Terrett, spokesman for Legacy Health, which operates the Silverton hospital, said he could not comment specifically about Blaize.
“First, and most importantly, our heartfelt sympathies go out to the family because the death of a child is always tragic,” Terrett said.
He added that federal and state patient privacy laws, along with hospital policies, prevented him from commenting on a specific care and treatment.
“Given the complexity of this case, it would also be speculative to talk about any potential course of treatment,” Terrett said.
Poff said she is sharing her story because she wants parents to trust their instincts and make sure their children get medical treatment immediately, especially when they have a fever.
Babies are at increased risk
An average of 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis resulting in 500 deaths are reported every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But nationwide rates of meningococcal disease are at historic lows.
Several types of bacteria can cause meningitis including Streptococcus pneumoniae, listeria, E.coli and Neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningococcal disease.
Babies are at an increased risk of contracting meningitis, which can be spread during birth, in the air through coughing and sneezing and via contaminated food.
Marion County Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said all invasive meningococcal diseases are required to be reported to the county within 24 hours
She confirmed the county received a report of Blaize’s death and conducted an investigation into who else may have been infected. She also confirmed his death was caused by a meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease is spread though the sharing of respiratory and throat secretions, like coughing, kissing and lengthy, close contact.
“Our main concern is to identify those people who have recently been in close contact with the ill person,” Landers said. “We assure that they are aware of the symptoms of this severe and rapidly progressive illness so that they can seek care at the earliest sign of illness.”
Those in close contact with the infected person are also treated with antibiotics as a preventative measure.
Landers said the county tracks all cases of reportable infections in Marion County through a comprehensive statewide database.
10 percent of cases are fatal
Dr. Ann Thomas, a public health physician with the Oregon Health Authority, said Oregon sees an average of 22 meningococcal cases a year. About 10 percent of those cases occur in children under the age of 1, and 10 percent of the total cases are fatal.
Routine infant vaccinations can stave off some of the infections like Haemophilus influenzae and pneumococcal that cause meningitis, Thomas said.
The vaccine for the Neisseria meningitidis that causes meningococcal disease is recommended for preteens and teens. It is usually only given to babies with spleen diseases and other high-risk factors.
Thomas advised parents to always immediately check with their medical providers if their child exhibits any symptoms of meningitis.
She warned that some meningitis symptoms can be subtle and harder to spot, especially in infants.
Poff said she was not told which form of meningitis her son contracted. Her family was treated with antibiotics after Blaize’s death, and Poff is concerned it could be contagious.
“I want people to be aware it’s around,” she said.
Be cautious, she advised, adding, “Love your babies as much as you can, because life is so short and they can be taken away from you at any moment.”
Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com