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Dr. John: Possible seizures, influenza spinal meningitis

9:55 AM, Feb 12, 2014   |    comments
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KUSA - Dr. John Torres from Premier Urgent Care answers your questions every week. If you have a medical question for Dr. John, send it to mornings@9news.com and make sure to have Ask Dr. John in the subject line.

Question #1
If some has been advised to see a neurologist for possible seizures, wouldn't the general practitioner advise the person not to drive? Patt

Answer
When it comes to this type of situation it's always a judgment call as to whether a person should be driving or not. When doctors are presented with someone who had seizure activity the answer is usually fairly straightforward. We advise them not to drive or operate heavy machinery until they see a neurologist to find out if they are controlled enough to continue driving. But if it's unsure whether they have had a seizure or not it gets a little murkier. Taking away someone's ability to drive can have a huge impact on their lives and livelihood so it's not something we take lightly. But at the same time keeping the public safe from a driver that could possibly have a seizure behind the wheel takes priority. In this case my guess is that the doctor who saw this patient wasn't suspicious enough to recommend not driving but at the same time wanted to have them further checked out by a neurologist to get to the bottom of what might be happening.

Question #2
Back in 1937, my little sister (6) died of influenza spinal meningitis. She was given 10 days to live. She lived 49 days. I want to know if this is that the same strain as the meningitis today? Ms Moore

Answer
This is not the same type of meningitis you hear about in the news nowadays but the main reason for that is because of childhood vaccines. The number one cause of bacterial meningitis in children back in 1937 was from a bacteria called haemophilus influenza. It caused what was called influenza spinal meningitis. Although it has the word influenza in the name this is actually a bacteria and is not at all related to the flu virus. Once the HIB vaccine came about, which protects against this bacteria, the numbers of children affected by this very serious and potentially fatal disease dropped significantly.
Nowadays the type of meningitis you typically hear about in the news is one called the meningococcal meningitis. This type of meningitis is caused by a bacteria is very dangerous and typically affects late teens and young adults. That's mainly because it spreads though dormitory or barracks type environment. There is a vaccine against this bacteria as well and is recommended for high school students before they head off to college.

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