Becoming a parent teaches us so much! Among the umpteen things that we learn to prioritise as caregivers to an infant, perhaps the most important is the instinct to protect and nurture the baby, come what may.
As parents, we become ruthless about rejecting all those things that do not meet quality standards, especially those that are going to be a part of our child’s daily routine, be it a bar of soap to the pillow that the baby sleeps on.
One such priority item on parents’ agenda is protecting the baby from diseases and rightly so. But there is no need to be afraid of ‘what could happen’. Instead, we can focus on educating ourselves and beat the infection of ignorance with information!
In this article, we are going to dispel the darkness on a rare but serious infection called meningococcal meningitis. Let us equip ourselves with some crucial information about this disease and understand how we can protect our children against it!
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease refers to any illness caused by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as meningococcus. These illnesses are often severe and can be deadly. They include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).1 Symptoms of meningitis often appear to be similar to flu2 but can rapidly accelerate and lead to complications.
The bacteria are transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions from carriers. It is believed that 10% to 20% of the healthy adult population carries Neisseria meningitidis in their throat at any given time. The bacteria can be carried in the throat and sometimes, for reasons not fully understood, can overwhelm the body's defenses allowing infection to spread through the bloodstream to the brain.
Prevention of meningococcal disease
No doubt, it is a dangerous disease, but we can protect our children against it as far as possible through timely vaccination!
The WHO states that licensed vaccines against meningococcal disease have been available for more than 40 years. Over time, there have been major improvements in strain coverage and vaccine availability, but to date no universal vaccine against meningococcal disease exists.
Depending on the type of vaccine, protection against certain serogroups (types) of meningococcal bacteria is offered for varying durations. Types include polysaccharides, conjugate and protein-based vaccines.
Across the world, vaccines are administered to children, youth and adults, depending on vulnerability and medical history. In India, some vaccines providing protection against meningococcal meningitis are administered to infants from 9 months of age.
Remember that the disease may be dangerous, but it can be prevented!
The WHO has undertaken a mission of defeating meningitis by 2030. Let us join them in this movement and do our bit to protect the future generations of this planet, our children!
Do not hesitate to consult your pediatrician to know more about the disease and protect your child from it.
https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html, Accessed on April 22, 2020
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350508, Accessed on April 22, 2020
https://www.who.int/health-topics/meningitis#tab=tab_1, Accessed on June 30, 2020