Early symptoms of meningococcal disease are identified

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 30, 2006

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British researchers have identified three early symptoms for meningococcal disease in children that could help speed diagnosis of this disease, which can progress from its initial symptoms to death within hours.

The researchers reported in the Jan. 11 online edition of The Lancet that 72% of 448 children who were studied had leg pain, cold hands and feet and abnormal skin color, symptoms that developed at an average of only 8 hours after the onset of the disease.

In contrast, the classic symptoms of meningococcal disease -- rash, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light and impaired consciousness -- develop 13 to 22 hours after onset.

The three early features of the disease often are present at the initial examination of an ill child, according to the researchers.

The presence of the three features suggests that vital signs, pulse, respiratory rate and capillary return might also be abnormal, they noted.

"Recognizing these early symptoms of sepsis could increase the proportion of children who are identified by primary care physicians and shorten the time to hospital admission," said lead author Dr. Matthew Thompson of the University of Oxford's Dept. of Primary Health Care in Oxford, England.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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