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Toddler Died From Meningitis After She Was Misdiagnosed With Swine Flu

02/10/2012 16:32 | Updated 22 May 2015
Toddler died from meningitis after she was misdiagnosed with swine fluPA

A two-year-old girl died from meningitis after her parents were wrongly told she was suffering from swine flu, an inquest has heard.

Georgia Keeling, from Norwich, died after being rushed to hospital on August 4, 2009, at the height of the swine flu pandemic. Her older sister, Charlie, had earlier been correctly diagnosed with the disease.

Giving evidence at an inquest in Norwich, Georgia's parents, Paul Sewell and Natasha Keeling, spoke out to highlight the failings of their daughter's case, after a paramedic arrived to see Georgia, but turned an ambulance away saying she had swine flu.

Natasha was advised to get Georgia's temperature down, and was 'relieved' to be given a diagnosis. However Georgia's condition continued to deteriorate throughout the day.

Natasha called 999 immediately and Georgia was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital but was pronounced dead at 4.24pm on August 4 2009.

A post-mortem later showed she died from septicaemia - the blood poisoning form of meningitis.

Georgia's dad Paul told the inquest he had rang NHS Direct and carried out the 'glass test' on Georgia's rash to see if his daughter was suffering from meningitis. The rash seemed to disappear, although the outline remained visible.

He told the inquest that Georgia seemed healthy and happy until two days before her death.

But on August 3, she suddenly developed a high temperature, was 'off her food' and was restless when she went to bed. Describing the day of her death, Natasha said: "She woke up at about 6am and asked for a cup of tea like she normally did. I noticed a rash on her legs. It looked like bruises all over her legs.

"She was still very hot, she was quiet. She was normally quite a noisy little girl."

Natasha said she initially suspected it was chicken pox but her mother suggested she contact a doctor. The city's West Earlham surgery told her no appointments were available for two days.

She was told to contact the swine flu hotline, which had been introduced during the pandemic. If given the all-clear, she would be seen at another surgery. Hotline staff told her that the presence of the rash meant it was unlikely to be swine flu.

She decided to dial 999 and the first ambulance, which was turned away by the paramedic, arrived at about midday.

A statement of behalf of the East of England Ambulance Service was read at the start of the inquest. It said: "The ambulance trust does recognise there have been shortcomings in this case and has apologised to the family."

Paramedic Patricia Perfect said she visited the family's home and made the swine flu diagnosis after a 45-minute examination. She ruled out meningitis because the rash disappeared when pressed.

"I went on the history of vomiting, the fact she was having pains and she also had a high temperature,"she said. "Swine flu was at pandemic proportions and most clinicians at that time, if presented with those symptoms, would have come up with the same diagnosis.

"I told Georgia's mother that, if anything got worse, she should call 999. At that time it appeared to be a fairly routine matter. It is very difficult to diagnose meningitis."

The inquest continues.

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