Because hospitals are in such a hurry, they sometimes assume that a patient has a cold or the flu when, in fact, they are overlooking something much more serious. While hospitals do have access to rapid flu tests and should use them for almost any patient exhibiting flu-like symptoms, these tests are not always accurate and cannot exclude other diagnoses on their own.
When a hospital sends a patient home with the wrong diagnosis, or otherwise discharges a patient who still needs medical care, it is called improper discharge or a failure to diagnose.
Under Florida medical malpractice law, doctors and hospitals can be held liable for an improper discharge or a failure to diagnose. These cases often involve a mistaken case of the flu, thanks in part to the flu’s scapegoat status as a “catch-all” diagnosis. Too many doctors identify flu-like symptoms in a patient and fail to take additional precautions to confirm the diagnosis before sending the patient home.
The truth is that many medical conditions mimic the flu, including a number of very serious illnesses that can cause long-term damage or even death if not immediately treated. That’s why it’s so important that doctors be absolutely sure about a flu diagnosis before consenting to a hospital discharge.
Illnesses Commonly Mistaken for the Flu
When one illness shares many symptoms with another, it is called a differential diagnosis. Doctors are expected to know the differential diagnoses for your symptoms, and they have a duty to carefully consider those possibilities.
Flu-like symptoms have numerous differential diagnoses. Medical conditions that have commonly mistaken for the flu include:
- Pertussis (“Whooping Cough”)
- Viral Meningitis
- Bacterial Meningitis
- Sepsis (blood poisoning)
- Severe allergic reactions
- Acute Retroviral Syndrome, or ARS (a set of flu-like symptoms that often manifests a few weeks after infection with the HIV virus)
- Syphilis or advanced-staged sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Drug withdrawal
- Tickborne diseases (Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, etc.)
- Epidemic diseases (SARS, Ebola, Swine flu, etc.)
- Certain cancers
- Cat scratch fever
- C. diff (often caused by antibiotics)
- Measles, mumps, or rubella
- Poisoning / toxic exposure
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- Many more
Just about every illness shares something in common with the flu. Don’t let your doctor make assumptions about your health based on your symptoms alone. Some conditions, like sepsis and meningitis, can quickly turn deadly without proper treatment. An improper discharge with the flu could rob you of the urgent treatment you need to stay ahead of a rapidly progressing infection.
If you or someone you know has been improperly diagnosed or discharged with the flu, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation under Florida personal injury law. Our malpractice lawyers at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help.
To get started with a free consultation, simply pick up the phone or contact us online. We represent medical malpractice clients on a contingency basis, which means we don’t charge for our time unless we are successful in our fight for you.
Contact our Miami Medical malpractice lawyers today.