Meningococcal Meningitis: A Vaccine Preventable Disease
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Meningococcal Meningitis: A Vaccine Preventable Disease

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Meningococcal Meningitis: A Vaccine Preventable Disease

As parents or caregivers, it is not rare to see children suffering from common cold, runny nose, coughing during nights or occasional fevers. More often than not, these symptoms disappear with mild medication or home remedies especially in the growing years (immunity-building phase) of children. But did you know that sometimes the symptoms can be of a more serious disease?


Meningococcal meningitis is one of them, that could start with a fever, headache, severely aching muscles or joints and stiff neck. Sometimes, one may experience nausea, vomiting or a hallucinating mental state. 1What makes the disease a force to reckon with though, is the fact that it can claim a life in as little as 24 hours. Those initial symptoms typically worsen rapidly and can wreak havoc in a matter of hours! 

 


In the absence of early diagnosis and timely antibiotic treatment, it can cause devastating and long- term damage to our brain and nervous system, loss of functional abilities such as speech or hearing, loss of memory and concentration, organ failure, epilepsy, gangrene and others. There are cases where children have lost part of their limbs (fingers, hands, toes) as a severe impact.


What can happen if the disease strikes and is not treated on time:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Loss of speech or hearing
  • Loss of memory and skills learnt before
  • Loss of limbs
  • And some times Death


You might ask how are you or your baby likely to contract the infection? Or how could you minimize the risk?


It may be a little discomforting for you to know that around 1 in 10 healthy people carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of their nose or throat, which may then invade our body and cause infection. What is even more worrisome is that many such people who harbor the bacteria (carriers) may not show any symptoms.


Based on statistics in the United States, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USA (CDC) recommends a meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY) vaccine for children as young as two months old if they have certain medical conditions, are travelling to specific countries or, are predisposed to an outbreak in the local community. 5In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) explains that infants aged 3-12 months are the most vulnerable to an attack.


The CDC also recommends an immunization programme for teens (11 to 18-year-olds) and young adults (16 to 23-year old), as they are proven to be at a high risk for this infection. 7WHO has stated that epidemics are most likely through an outbreak in this age group. 

 


The bacteria causing meningococcal meningitis tends to spread across groups of people so large public gatherings are high risk zones. Those having certain medical conditions or under certain medications, are potentially at a higher risk too.


The Sub-Saharan belt in Africa has had many community outbreaks of this disease. So, if you are travelling to that part of the world, the vaccine may be a good shot in the arm!


Who is at high risk?

  • Infants & children less than 5 years.
  • Adolescents aged 11 -18 years
  • People with specific medical conditions or, under certain medication
  • People who have had close or lengthy contact with an infected person for a prolonged period
  • Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa


Must Know: If your baby is inactive, irritable, poorly feeding, vomiting, has a purple skin rash, or having a bulge in the soft spot of the skull, you need to rush to your pediatrician immediately!


Being an informed parent, you would always be better able to manage your child’s health better. Wish you and your child/ren good health!
To know more about meningitis click here
https://www.sanofi.com/en/your-health/vaccines/meningococcal-meningitis

References:

1.Key facts about Meningococcal Meningitis: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/meningococcal-meningitis 

2.Complications of Meningitis - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/complications/: Accessed on April 22, 2020 

3.Signs and Symptoms - https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html : Accessed on April 22, 2020 

4.After effects - https://www.meningitis.org/meningitis/after-effects: Accessed on April 22, 2020 

5.Causes and Spread to Others: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/causes-transmission.html: Accessed on April 22, 2020 

6.Meningococcal Vaccination: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/index.html : Accessed on April 22, 2020 

7.Meningococcal Meningitis: https://www.who.int/biologicals/vaccines/Meningococcal_Meningitis/en/ : Accessed on April 22, 2020 

8.Risk factors: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/risk-factors.html : Accessed on April 22, 2020 

9.Meningococcal Meningitis: https://www.who.int/biologicals/vaccines/Meningococcal_Meningitis/en/ : Accessed on April 22, 2020 

10.Risk factors: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/risk-factors.html : Accessed on April 22, 2020 

11.Risk factors: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/risk-factors.html : Accessed on April 22, 2020

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