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Two year old girl died after swine flu diagnosis

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The BBC has recently reported that two-year-old Georgia Keeling, who had meningitis, was wrongly diagnosed with swine flu by paramedics hours before her death on 4 August 2009.

An inquest into her death held at Norwich Coroner’s Court heard that the toddler’s father, Paul Sewell had called NHS Direct and carried out the meningitis ‘glass test’ on her rash, but staff said it was ‘probably a virus’.

The coroner, Mr Armstrong, ruled that Georgia died following an "erroneous diagnosis" and the fact she was not immediately admitted to hospital had reduced her chances of survival.
Georgia had been happy until two days before her death and on 3rd August 2009 she developed a high temperature, was off her food and was restless in bed.

Ms Keeling, Georgia’s mother had telephoned her GP Surgery but no appointments were available for two days. The family were advised to contact the swine flu hotline and when they did, the staff explained that the presence of a rash probably meant it was a virus and not swine flu. 

Georgia’s condition deteriorated throughout the 4th August 2009 and Ms Keeling telephoned 999. The first ambulance arrived at about 12 noon, but the paramedics decided Georgia did not need to go to hospital. Paramedic, Patricia Perfect, told the Inquest that 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.

Georgia was prescribed with Tamiflu by the Paramedic and they told Ms Keeling to try and reduce her temperature.

Unfortunately, Georgia continued to decline and later on in the afternoon, Ms Keeling went to the toilet when Georgia screamed out ‘Mum’ in a distressed tone.

“Her eyes were glazed over and she wasn’t breathing. I was trying to resuscitate her” said Ms Keeling.

She telephoned 999 and a second ambulance arrived at approximately 4pm. Georgia was taken to hospital but was unfortunately pronounced dead at 4.24pm. A post mortem examination later showed that she died from septicaemia.

The East of England Ambulance Service has stated: “The ambulance trust does recognise there have been some shortcomings in this case and has apologised to the family.”

The Ambulance Service has confirmed that action has been taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

By Sarah Fairclough.