Encephalitis or brain swelling is a virus or viral infection that can make someone extremely sick or die, especially for pregnant women and their babies, if left untreated. The arboviruses that typically cause encephalitis come from animals, like rodents and birds or insects. The virus is transmitted from animals to humans via blood carried by mosquitoes and ticks, but cows, sheep, and goats can pass it to humans who drink unpasteurized milk. Viral infections from common diseases like measles, chicken pox, and Herpes Simplex II can also cause brain swelling.
Herpes encephalitis comes from the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). The two types of HSV are HSV-Type 1 and HSV-Type 2. HSV-Type 1 symptoms appear as cold sores on the lips or mouth, while HSV-Type 2 symptoms include genital lesions. Teens and adults transmit Type 2 through sexual activity. Both forms can travel through the blood or nerves, though which is unknown, and infect the brain, causing swelling, but Type 1 causes encephalitis more often.
Though rare (.03% of babies born have it), herpes encephalitis has a high fatality rate and is especially dangerous to infants when untreated. More than half die of the condition or suffer developmental and neurological problems. The condition passes from an infected mother to a baby, typically in the birth canal, but may also develop in the womb or soon after birth. When a mother contracts the virus during her third trimester, her baby is more likely to be infected. Symptoms appear within the first month after birth, and though the condition may lie dormant for periods, the infection is lifelong and incurable. However, early treatment with antivirals can improve symptoms, and early detection of the disease can reduce the risk of fetal contamination by a cesarean section.
Since herpes encephalitis is rapidly progressing, medical professionals must know how to diagnose the condition, even when symptoms appear like other conditions. When your child’s herpes encephalitis diagnosis comes late due to medical error, it is highly advisable to seek sound legal guidance from a pediatric and birth malpractice lawyer, as you may have grounds to pursue compensation. Our renowned New Jersey lawyers can answer many of your questions about your child’s injuries after negligent medical care and your rights as a parent forced to suffer the consequences. Contact us by filling out our online form or calling 866-708-8617 for immediate assistance. We assist children and families with medical malpractice claims throughout New Jersey and consult on these cases nationwide. Let us provide you with a free consultation today.
What are the Signs of Herpes Encephalitis in Infants?
Symptoms of the Herpes Simplex virus include irritability, blisters, jaundice, bleeding, and respiratory problems evidenced by a blue appearance, grunting, quick breathing, or pauses. Symptoms appear within one to two weeks of birth and worsen quickly. The virus can develop into encephalitis, causing brain damage, spinal cord and organ damage. Symptoms of encephalitis include fever, seizures, and convulsions.
What are the Signs of Herpes Encephalitis in Children?
In older children, HSE symptoms appear as fever, changed mental behavior, losing consciousness, focal seizures or abnormalities, sleepiness, and confusion. Symptoms worsen as the disease progresses. If left untreated in children and infants, herpes encephalitis can be fatal. Survivors of the condition may have long-term memory problems, personality changes, behavioral problems, and speech and language issues.
How do Doctors Diagnose Herpes Encephalitis?
Herpes Simplex virus is often difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms appear like other central nervous system diseases, especially since the characteristic blisters may not appear. However, skin cultures, blood tests, urine tests, CT scans, MRIs, and swab cultures can confirm a diagnosis. Doctors should test both mother and baby if Herpes appears likely.
Though the disease is incurable, it is preventable if caught early. Babies with the condition receive ganciclovir, acyclovir, or valganciclovir, common antiviral drugs, intravenously over several weeks. Antivirals slow viral encephalitis and lower the mortality rate if administered early. And yet, even with antiviral treatment, some infected individuals remain neurologically affected for the rest of their lives. Thus, misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis can worsen symptoms and long-term effects of herpes encephalitis and even contribute to an infant or child’s death.
Medical Negligence with Herpes Encephalitis in Babies and Children
Physicians who mistake symptoms for other childhood conditions may send a parent home with antibiotics for their sick baby, only to find the baby in the neonatal intensive care unit in critical condition one week later. When a blood test or brain scan might have revealed the actual condition and the need for treatment earlier, a doctor who fails to run tests to discover herpes encephalitis may be liable in a medical malpractice and birth injury claim if the newborn suffers harm or death due to complications for herpes encephalitis. Proper diagnosis requires a physician to rule out more dangerous conditions like herpes encephalitis before diagnosing a simple cold, flu, or infection.
In older children, symptoms are more characteristic of herpes encephalitis. A physician who does not rule out the condition when encountering a child experiencing weakness, incoordination, speech loss, behavior changes, or abnormal visual disturbances may likewise face liability in pediatric malpractice claim. Since a physician must err on the side of caution, the mere suspicion of herpes encephalitis should prompt a medical professional to begin a course of antiviral treatment just to be safe.
Physicians receive education and training for disease diagnosis and must be competent, operating in accordance with the standards of practice for medical professionals in their fields of practice and specialties. When a medical professional fails to practice medicine within the standards of competency and common practice for their field, expertise, and situation, they may owe monetary damages to those they hurt. Medical malpractice claims for compensatory damages include economic and noneconomic losses, including expenses for treatment and therapy, as well as pain and suffering for your child if they are living with their impaired condition.
Consult our New Jersey Herpes Encephalitis Malpractice Lawyers about Your Child’s Case
Contact our birth injury and pediatric malpractice lawyers today at 866-708-8617 for assistance with your child’s herpes encephalitis injury or wrongful death case. With decades of experience concentrating in malpractice law, particularly as it relates to newborns and children, we have the knowledge, dedication, and background to obtain compensation by negotiating a settlement or taking your case to a jury. Should an attorney on our talented birth injury team evaluate your claim for damages due to medical negligence with herpes and determine your valid claim, we also connect with medical experts to review your case and verify that medical malpractice occurred. In New Jersey, a medical expert must certify you have a valid claim.
Further, our pediatric and birth malpractice lawyers will work with you to assemble the evidence you need to make your case for damages and liability, such as medical reports and bills, paycheck stubs to validate lost wages, vacation pay, and sick leave in caring for your ill child. Your child may also need ongoing medical and therapeutic care for the rest of their life. We can verify that amount and all damages owed to you and your child, calling upon life-care planning experts to justify damages in some cases. Please do not hesitate to explore your legal options with a member of our team.