What is Meningitis?

Meningococcal meningitis, a form of meningococcal disease, is a serious bacterial infection. Unlike viral meningitis, it can potentially kill an otherwise healthy young person within 1 day after the first symptoms appear. 1, 2

Meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognise, especially in its early stages because meningitis symptoms are similar to those of more common viral illnesses. But unlike more common illnesses, meningococcal disease can cause death or disability within just 1 day. 1

Many of the people who survive meningococcal meningitis can be left with serious medical problems that may include amputation of limbs, fingers, or toes, severe scarring, brain damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, and psychological problems. 2

Who’s at Risk for Meningitis?

Even people who are usually healthy can get meningitis. Although all age groups are affected, the highest-risk groups include infants and young children. 1, 2

How Meningococcal Disease Spreads

Common everyday activities can spread meningococcal disease. This includes kissing, sharing utensils and drinking glasses, living in close quarters such as a dormitory or summer camp, and smoking or being exposed to smoke. Activities that can make teens feel run down may also put them at greater risk for meningitis by weakening their immune system. These include staying out late and having irregular sleeping patterns.2

How to prevent the disease

  • You can’t watch your children every minute of every day. But you can help protect them from meningococcal disease (which includes meningitis) by getting them vaccinated. Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to help protect them from meningococcal meningitis. 1, 2
  • Simply talk to your child’s health-care provider about the importance of vaccination. Meningitis vaccines (indicated from 9 months of age) are available for individuals who wish to reduce their risk to contracting the disease. 1, 2
  • If you ever suspect that your child has meningitis, contact emergency services right away, where he or she can be evaluated and receive prompt medical care.1, 2

References:

  1. Thompson MJ, Ninis N, Perera R et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006;367:397-403.
  2. World Health Organisation. Media Centre. Meningococcal meningitis. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en/#. Accessed on 13/08/14
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