A prospective study of patients with fever and petechiae was performed. Of 190 patients enrolled in the 1-year study, 13 (7%) had meningococcal disease. The most common bacterial association was Streptococcus pyogenes (19 patients). Viral infections were documented in 28 patients. Patients with invasive bacterial disease (group I) appeared more sick, were more likely to have signs of meningeal irritation, and were more likely to have petechiae on the lower extremities than those with less serious, nonbacteremic disease (group II). No patient in group I had petechiae only above the nipple line. Patients in group I had a significantly higher peripheral white blood cell count and absolute band form count. Although no laboratory test or physical finding was sufficiently sensitive to detect all patients with serious disease, the patient with abnormal cerebrospinal fluid, elevated white blood cell count, or elevated absolute band form count was at increased risk for invasive, bacterial disease. Conversely, the risk of serious disease was small if all of these values were in the normal range in the nonill-appearing child or if sore throat and clinical pharyngitis were present in the patient older than 3 years of age.

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