Ear infection leads to meningitis death

27th February 2018

A former Mayor of Blandford died of an aggressive form of meningitis just two days after being diagnosed with an ear infection


Esme Butler, 61, was seen by Nurse Practitioner Sharon Drummond when she went her GP surgery. She was diagnosed with an ear infection and given ear drops.

Mrs Drummond told the inquest she diagnosed an outer ear infection and added, “She was alert and she was chatty.”

Sadly, she was found unconscious just a few hours later, Dorset Coroner Rachael Griffin was told. 

Mrs Butler’s husband, David, said his wife went to the supermarket before returning to their home. He said he went to bed leaving her downstairs. Later, he got up to let one of their dogs out and found Mrs Butler unconscious in the armchair. 

The Bournemouth inquest heard Mrs Butler, did not have a high temperature when she visited Whitecliff Surgery in Blandford on May 15 last year but was suffering from a headache and ear pain.

Lead consultant neurologist at Poole Hospital, Dr Ralph Gregory, told the inquest about the rapid progression of the disease.

He told the coroner he said, “She did not have meningitis when she was seen in the surgery. The infection burst into the brain. Her treatment was as prompt as was humanly possible.”

He said it is unlikely she would have survived if she had been given antibiotics earlier and added, “Even if she had survived she would have been severely disabled.”

Dr Kenneth Power, a critical care consultant, added, “This was clearly a very rapidly-evolving process.” He described the meningitis as “aggressive.”

Mrs Butler died at Poole Hospital on May 17 from acute meningitis.

Check the signs and symptoms of meningitis.