What is Meningococcal Disease – Meningitis?
Meningococcal Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord. Several different bacteria can cause Meningitis but Neisseria meningitidis (Meningococcus) is the most important one because of its ability to cause epidemics
How is Meningitis transmitted?
The bacteria can be carried in the Pharyynx and sometimes for reasons not fully known, can overwhelm the body’s defences allowing the infection to spread to the blood stream and the brain. The bacteria are transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets, saliva and throat secretions when people get into close contact. Close and prolonged contact e.g kissing, sneezing and coughing on someone, living in close quarters or dormitories, sharing, eating or drinking utensils, etc facilitate the spread of the disease. The average incubation period is 4 days (ranging between 2 – 10 days)
Signs and Symptoms of Meningitis?
The most common symptoms are stiff necks, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, headache and vomiting. Even when the disease is diagnosed early and adequately therapy is instituted, 5 – 10% of patients die typically within 24 – 48 hours of onset of symptoms. Bacterial Meningitis may result in brain damage, hearing loss or learning disabilities in 10 – 20% of survivors.
Where is the disease most prevalent?
The disease occurs sporadically in small clusters throughout the world with seasonal variations. The highest burden of meningococcal disease occurs in sub-sahara Africa, which is known as the “Meningitis Belt”, an area that strecthes from Senegal to Ethopia with an estimated population of 300 million people. Travellers to the Meningitis Belt may be at risk for infection particularly in the dry season. Increasing numbers of cases and outbreaks have been reported from other regions south of the Meningitis Belt. These areas include the Great Lakes, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. In addition to regional variations in disease incidence, living conditions and social behaviour can also affect transmission overcrowding as occurs in colleges, dormitories, refugee camps, etc also contribute to infection.
Which groups are at high risk of Meningococcal Meningitis?
Persons with certain immunodefficiency states, people who have laboratory exposure, travellers to and resident of hyperendemic areas such as sub-sahara Africa, pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for Hajj and Umrah.Leave a reply →