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Saving Kids From Meningococcal Disease

New Early Warning Signs Noted by British Researchers

Early Diagnosis Best

Thompson and colleagues don't want to needlessly alarm parents or doctors. Not every child with a fever or sore throat has meningococcal disease, they note.

The researchers didn't compare the children they studied to those with similar symptoms but without meningococcal disease. They also had to rely on parents' recall of what happened -- and when -- during a stressful time.

However, the scientists emphasize the importance of early diagnosis.

"Since infection can progress from initial symptoms to death within hours, individuals must be diagnosed as early as possible," they write.

When in Doubt, Follow Up

Barely half of the children they studied were sent to the hospital after first being seen by a doctor for their illness, the researchers note.

They advise doctors to see children again within four to six hours if the doctor is concerned about the child's condition but doesn't recommend hospitalization.

The follow-up visit should not be done the next day, Thompson's team says. A journal editorial backs that up.

Until more studies can be done, "doctors should be encouraged to schedule clinical review within four to six hours if early meningococcal disease cannot be ruled out at first contact," states the editorial.

The editorialists included Cristiana Nascimento-Carvalho of the pediatrics department in Brazil's Federal University of Bahia.

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