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Clin Pract Cases Emerg Med


INTRODUCTION: Meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection of the central nervous system. Cryptococcus neoformans is a rare fungal cause of meningitis that commonly presents with atypical symptoms. Although this infection is most common in immunocompromised patients, it also occurs in immunocompetent patients. This case report describes an atypical presentation of cryptococcal meningitis in a seemingly immunocompetent patient.

CASE REPORT: A 40-year-old immunocompetent patient with no significant past medical history had visited the emergency department (ED) five times within a span of 30 days reporting dental pain and headache. Throughout each of the visits, no clear symptoms signaling the need for a meningitis workup were observed, as the patient had been afebrile, displayed no nuchal rigidity, and his presenting symptoms subsided within the ED after treatment. A lumbar puncture was performed after emergency medical services brought the patient in for his sixth ED visit, initially for stroke-like symptoms and altered mental status. Spinal fluid was indicative of cryptococcal meningitis.

CONCLUSION: This case highlights the challenge of identifying cryptococcal meningitis in the ED, particularly in immunocompetent patients who do not display classic meningitis symptoms. It also highlights the importance of keeping a broad differential and carefully ruling out diagnoses when patients return to the ED multiple times for the same complaint.

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