The vigilance against COVID-19 seem to overshadow or underestimate the existing top killer diseases of children in the country, some of which are measles, yellow fever, tetanus etc.
These diseases are preventable by vaccines and mostly affects children who are yet to celebrate their 5th birthday, i.e, children below the age of 5.
The disease on the spotlight today is Meningitis. In this article, all you need to know about it and the Meningococcal Vaccine will be thoroughly explained.
What is Meningitis?
This is a devastating disease that causes serious fatalities in Nigeria.
It is the inflammation of the covering of the brain called Meninges.
Cause of Meningitis
It is caused by various bacteria, fungi and virus.
Meningitis caused by Neisseira meningitides, Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophillus influenza and Group B streptococcus are the most frequent and leading cause of bacterial meningitis or cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) and sepsis.
There are 12 serotypes of this disease of which six are identified namely; A, B, C, W, X, Y.
Serogroup A (NmA) accounted for almost 90% of pathogen causing meningitis in Africa.
Serogroup C (NmC) accounted for 31.8% (35) of the positive cases recorded in the year 2019, in Nigeria.
Symptoms of Meningitis
- Sudden onset of headache
- Neck stiffness
- Loss of consciousness.
Risk Factors of Meningitis
These are factors that exposes you to contact the disease easily, they are;
- Dry season that comes with weakening of the mucus in the nose and throat as a result dust winds, cold nights and increase in upper respiratory tract infections.
- Living in overcrowded houses and poor sanitary conditions e.g. schools, prison, barracks etc.
- Population displacement and movement or convergence; Markets, IDP camps. This facilitates quick circulation of virulent strains.
How does Meningitis spread?
Meningitis does not have animal reservoir, it only affects humans. It is transmitted from humans to humans through respiratory droplets, throat secretions or direct contact with infected people.
It can spread rapidly in overcrowded and poor sanitary conditions.
How is Meningitis diagnosed?
Clinical signs such as fever, neck stiffness, Kernig’s sign (pain on extension of the knee on a flexed hip) suggest meningitis but a confirmatory lab test made by culture of the organism on the cerebrospinal fluid gotten from the spinal cord via a proceed called lumbar puncture is carried out.
All suspected cases should be reported immediately to the nearest health facility for proper evaluation and management. Do not attempt to self medicate.
Meningococcal meningitis can kill within hours. 10% of those infected die within two days even when antibiotics are available. One in four survivors is left with permanent disabilities such as paralysis, blindness, hearing loss, seizures and intellectual disability.
Complications of Meningitis
- Mental retardation
- Arthritis and
- Vaccination with Men A vaccine
- Good personal hygiene
- Avoid over crowding
- Exclusive breast feeding
In Nigeria, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) introduced the Meningococcal A Conjugate Vaccine into the routine Immunization schedule in the year 2018.
The Meningococcal A Conjugate Vaccine only protects against the serogroup A strain of meningitis.
The other serogroup of meningitis B,C,W,X,Y vaccine formulation are expected to be available in the country’s EPI in a few years time.
How is the Men A Vaccine Administered in the EPI?
Meningococcal A (Men A) vaccine is a vaccine that prevents against meningococcal disease also known as Meningitis.
Men A Vaccine is given as a single dose of 0.5ml into the muscle, usually at the left upper thigh of a child at 9-15months years of age.
At this same age of 9-15months, other vaccines like measles and yellow fever can also be received. Read here for more info.
Side effects of vaccines are addressed here also.
As we approach dry seasons that spans from December to June, it is important to vaccinate children against meningitis to prevent complications that may cause a permanent effect.
Coronavirus is real as well as various diseases out there such as tuberculosis, measles and meningitis. Visit health centres around you to get started.
Play a part in contributing to a healthy community by immunizing your household.