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Bacterial Infections in Childhood: Occult Bacteremia

Occult (hidden) bacteremia is the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream, although no infection is apparent anywhere else in the body and the child doesn't seem particularly sick.

Occult bacteremia accounts for up to 4 percent of the fevers in infants between the ages of 1 and 24 months. In more than 75 percent of all cases, the infection is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae . Sometimes the child has a mild respiratory tract infection or a sore throat, but often the only symptom is a fever (usually 38.5 C/101.3 F. or higher). The only way the diagnosis can be made is by detecting bacteria in a blood sample. Nonspecific tests, such as white blood cell counts, are used to help decide if the risk of bacterial infection (as opposed to viral infection) is such that antibiotics are required before final blood culture tests are available.
Occult bacteremia is treated with antibiotics.

From The Merck Manual of Medical Information Home Edition , edited by Mark H. Beers and Robert Berkow. Copyright 1997 by Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ:

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