Meningitis: Spinal Tap Headaches Can Seem Like Infection

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Since McGuire only had to wait an hour for his spinal tap results, ER doctors were probably looking at his spinal fluid under a microscope for a high number of white blood cells, rather than culturing the fluid to see whether fungus grew, said Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease expert at University Hospitals in Cleveland. As such, patients can still test positive later. The CDC recommends waiting to do a spinal tap until the onset of meningitis symptoms.

Esper said the CDC has developed a more advanced test for fungal meningitis, a polymerase chain reaction, but it's not clear whether all hospitals can use it yet.

"If this was a person who had an injection of known material associated with this outbreak, then I would think people would be erring on the side of caution," Esper said. Since the CDC reports a median incubation period of 15 days, he said he would watch for symptoms for about up to month and a half after the tainted injection.

McGuire said his head still aches but he was able to go to work on Monday after his doctor checked in to see how he was doing.

It seems he can get back to worrying about the condition he set out to treat in the first place: the pinched nerve that's caused him back pain for three years.

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