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Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 10:20:57 AM
by datuk dr zulkifli ismail
Prevention is better than cure: The most effective way to protect against bacterial meningitis is to vaccinate against it. — Reuters
Meningitis is a term used to describe serious inflammation of the meninges, the membranous covering of the brain and the spinal cord. And, it can be fatal.
MENINGITIS is a disease that needs to be treated promptly. It is a particularly dangerous infection because of the delicate nature of the brain, as brain cells, once killed, will not regenerate. If there’s substantial damage, serious, life-long handicaps will remain.
The disease can progress very rapidly, often leaving doctors little time for proper disgnosis and treatment. Its early symptoms are often non-specific and mimic those of the common cold or flu, and often, by the time most of the classic symptoms of meningitis appear, it may be too late to save the child. This disease can progress very rapidly, from the onset of the initial symptoms to death in as little as 24 hours.
It can be caused by either a viral or bacterial infection, both of which are contagious and potentially deadly. While meningitis caused by viral infections are more prevalent, the progression of the disease caused by bacterial infections can occur in hours rather than days; because of its high fatality rate, it remains a very serious threat and accounts for an estimated annual 170,000 deaths worldwide.
How does it spread?
Your risk increases if you live or work with someone who has the disease.
The bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (one of the principle bacteria that causes meningitis) can hitch a ride at the back of anyone’s throat, unless they have been vaccinated against it.
It is highly contagious and can easily spread when the infected person coughs, sneezes, kisses, or shares eating/drinking utensils with others.
Who are at risk?
Children and young adults (especially those living in close proximity with others, such as college/university students living in dormitories), are often those who will be most affected by meningitis (meningococcal disease). However, this disease can infect persons of any age.
How severe is meningitis?
This is a serious infection that can also involve blood infection.
In Malaysia, bacterial meningitis causes death in 10% of patients, with many suffering from complications due to the disease.
Is meningitis preventable?
Yes! The most effective way to protect you and your child against bacterial meningitis is to vaccinate against it.
How effective are the vaccines?
The newer meningococcal conjugate vaccine (against bacterial meningitis) is about 90% effective in preventing meningococcal disease.
The currently licensed pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (against pneumococcal meningitis) is based on 13 of the most common pneumococcal serotypes, against which the vaccine has an overall protective efficacy of about 60%–70%.
What should you do if you suspect that your child is infected?
If you suspect that your child shows any signs or symptoms of meningitis, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical assistance. You must act quickly, as this disease can run its course within 24-48 hours. Be sure to describe the symptoms as accurately as possible, and make it a point to mention the possibility of meningitis or septicaemia to your child’s doctor.
Never underestimate the importance of vaccination. Preventing meningitis is much more desirable than dealing with the aftermath of an infection.
It’s important that you learn the signs of meningitis; if at any time you suspect that your child has it, do not delay. Seek medical care immediately!
> Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail is a consultant paediatrician and paediatric cardiologist. This article is a courtesy of Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme, supported by an educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. The opinion expressed in the article is the view of the author. For further information, please visit www.mypositiveparenting.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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Health, children's health, vaccination, meningitis, influenza
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