Tiara was a cute little baby who loved to shower love on everyone. She would make hearts melt with her warm smile. She indeed was a beautiful baby, who was special for her parents, and for her entire family. She was the youngest in her family of 7 members. She was growing up happily amongst her siblings until one fateful night, when she fell ill.
Tiara had a high fever which didn’t come down even after she was given medicine to control it. Her parents rushed her to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, her mum kept praying for her safety and healthy return. However, deep down she knew Tiara won’t make it. Within hours of reaching the hospital, Tiara succumbed to meningitis. She was just 3-years-old at the time. Tiara couldn’t fight this totally preventable disease called meningitis because she was not given the Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV) during the initial years of her life.
There are many such cases of meningitis which get registered every year, but due to lack of information and resources, they just become another number in the statistics. Being a mother of two kids, I do realize the plight of Tiara’s mum and can imagine how she must have dealt with the loss of such a young and beautiful daughter. In fact, recently I was talking to a friend, who happened to be a mother of an infant. She requested me to share some information about meningitis as I had a detailed discussion about the same with my doctor. To help her, and other mothers, by generating awareness about meningitis and the importance of its vaccination, I decided to share a few details about this deadly disease.
Let’s have a look at what exactly meningitis is and why the vaccine “Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV)” should be administered at the right age.
What Is Meningitis?
Well, it is an infection that affects the protective layers that surround the brain and spinal cord. It can affect infants, young children as well as adults with a poor immune system. It is vaccine-preventable and curable, but if not treated properly, it may lead to severe neurological complications. There are several causes of meningitis which include bacterial, viral, and fungal. Bacterial meningitis is usually fatal and very contagious. Viral tends to be comparatively less severe; fungal meningitis is the rarest form of the disease.
Every year across India, many cases of people suffering from meningitis are reported. Many of them get cured due to timely medical help. However, there are a lot of other people who lose their lives to this deadly disease. In spite of being cured, quite a lot of them suffer from other forms of disabilities and physical issues that stay with them for life.
Kids are highly susceptible to catching infections and diseases, especially in the initial years of their life. This happens as children have feeble immune systems, and their bodies are not ready to fight infection-causing microorganisms. Till the age of 16, children are given various doses of vaccines that treat different types of diseases, as mandated by the health ministry and the government. However, the vaccine for meningitis has not been given a permanent place in that (refer below).
Who Is At Risk Of Meningitis?
Anyone can catch this disease. As per the reports and stats, children under the age of 5, teenagers, young adults, and adults above 55 years, are at a higher risk of contracting meningitis. People with certain medical conditions or having a poor immune system are also likely to fall prey to this disease.
What Are The Symptoms Of Meningitis?
Fever, vomiting, headache, and feeling unwell are some of the initial symptoms of this disease. Rashes, neck stiffness, discomfort in bright lights and confusion are other symptoms. Aside from these, few other symptoms such as difficulty in waking up, and fits are also there. Few symptoms that you should look out for in babies and infants are high fever, constant crying, irritable mood, sleeping excessively, sluggishness, refusing feeding, a bulge in the soft spot on top of the baby’s head (fontanel), and stiffness in the baby’s body and neck. Symptoms for infants and babies may vary and it is best to consult the doctor for further details.
What Causes Meningitis?
The main cause of meningitis is a bacterial or viral infection that begins somewhere else in the body near the brain such as in the ears, sinuses, or throat. In fact, viral infections are the most common and known cause of meningitis, followed by bacterial infections.
When Does It Become Life Threatening?
Bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening and is often caused by different types of bacteria. It’s an extremely serious illness that can lead to death as well. Bacterial meningitis starts when the disease-causing bacteria get into the bloodstream from the sinuses, ears, or throat. Then, it travels to the brain via the bloodstream. The bacteria that cause meningitis can spread when people who are infected, cough or sneeze, and their infected bodily fluids get released into the atmosphere. If you or your child has been around someone who has bacterial meningitis, it’s quite possible that you might contract this deadly infection.
As they say, prevention is better than cure. It’s advisable to opt for ways in which you can avoid catching and spreading the disease. In fact, common bacteria and viruses that can cause meningitis can also spread through coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils, kissing, sharing a toothbrush or even a cigarette. Here are a few steps to prevent meningitis:
1) Vaccination is the best defense against the meningococcal disease. Giving the Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV) in all the age brackets, at the right time, is the best way to protect your child against this vaccine-preventable disease.
2)Maintaining personal hygiene, washing hands regularly and teaching children the importance of the same. Ask them to cover their mouth when they need to cough and sneeze.
3)Practice good hygiene habits. Do not share drinks, food, straws, utensils, lipsticks/lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else. Teach your kids to follow the same habit.
4)Staying healthy by eating the right food, taking sufficient rest, and exercising daily.
Meningitis is a preventable disease, and it is absolutely curable if timely medical care is provided. In fact, it is advisable to take precautionary measures to avoid catching this disease. As parents, we need to ensure that our kids are protected against the disease by getting the meningitis vaccination administered to them at the right age and time. Meningitis vaccine is as important as other vaccines such as MMR, polio drops, DPT, and hepatitis, if you want to keep your children and family safe.
Tiara couldn’t be saved as she was not vaccinated against this disease. We as caregivers should ensure that everyone in the family is given the right dose of this vaccine at the right time. When this disease strikes you or your loved one, it doesn’t give you time to do research and find a remedy. So the only way to stop it is through prevention. And prevention can only happen with vaccination.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog content are independent and unbiased views of solely the blogger. This is a part of a public awareness initiative on meningitis supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of the blog. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information.
This article is meant to help create awareness and spread knowledge. Any decision regarding your health and child’s health should be done after consultation with your doctor. Read my full disclosure here. While all efforts are made to keep articles updated, the speed of research in these fields mean the information often may change when more research knowledge is available. Lifethrumyeyes should be in no way held responsible in that case.
Author: Rakhi Parsai