As children grow up to become teenagers, they have to deal with several changes in their bodies as well as their psyche. It’s extremely important to provide them with constant parenting support so that they can transition from one phase to another phase of their life smoothly. Today, most parents are well-informed, and they do their best to fulfill their responsibilities towards their children.
As a parent, I was absolutely conscious and confident that I had ensured stress-free adolescence for my child until I came across the National Health Profile, which reported a huge number of cases and fatalities due to meningococcal meningitis in India.
A glance at this report startled me deeply, and I spent the whole evening trying to learn more about this deadly disease, which I hadn’t heard of before. I know a lot of mothers wouldn’t have heard of this disease, and this is why I felt the need to share my findings with them.
Meningococcal meningitis is an infrequent but serious bacterial infection. It leads to the inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The spread of the disease is observed worldwide. Anyone, at any age, can become a victim of this disease, but teens and young college-going adults are at a higher risk of getting this infection.
Among children and teens, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis is meningococcus. This bacteria may attack any part of the body, be it skin, gastrointestinal tract or respiratory tract. Then it spreads through the bloodstream to the nervous system. Once it gets there, it causes meningococcal meningitis, which is a life-threatening disease.
This disease can prove to be fatal even if prompt treatment is given to the patient. Nearly 19% of those who survive this disease are left with serious, lifelong complications, and disabilities such as deafness, paralysis, gangrene, brain damage, kidney failure, limb amputations, and neurological problems.
How Do These Bacteria Get Transmitted?
The bacteria that causes this infection is generally transmitted from one person to another through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. Fortunately, these bacteria are not as contagious as the germs that cause the common cold or the flu, so you won’t catch the infection just by breathing at a spot where a meningitis patient had been. But when people come in contact with an infected person’s saliva through kissing, coughing, smoking, sharing beverages, food, or even cosmetics; it facilitates the spread of this disease.
The most common symptoms of this disease are sudden high fever, stiffness in the neck, sensitivity to bright lights, confusion, persistent headaches, drowsiness, and vomiting. In babies, a bulging soft spot (fontanel), jerky movements, excessive sleepiness, and fast breathing are the symptoms to watch out for. For a definitive diagnosis of meningitis, clinical blood examinations are required to define control measures.
When it comes to adolescents, preventive medical services get neglected by most parents. However, it is recommended that even a healthy adolescent should visit the pediatrician at least once a year. But we parents rarely take our children to the doctor for regular checkups or guidance. We take them to the doctor only when they have a specific medical health concern. And that’s the reason why lethal diseases like meningitis claim so many lives every year.
Early antibiotic treatment can be one of the most important measures that can save lives and reduce complications. Vaccines have also prevented countless deaths and have protected people from the serious after-effects of such diseases. Most parents are quite meticulous about their baby’s immunization schedule during his/her early development, post childbirth, and get vaccines like HepB, DTP, IPV, MMR, etc. for their babies. However, these vaccinations don’t offer protection against vaccine-preventable acute bacterial infections such as meningococcal meningitis.
Recommended Vaccination Schedule
Parents of teens must need to know and follow the vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC for their child’s health. For meningococcal meningitis, CDC recommends that all 11 to 12-year-olds should be vaccinated with the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which should be supplanted with a booster dose when they turn 16. Even if your teens have gotten the first dose of vaccine at the ages of 11-12, it is strongly recommended that you get them a booster dose at 16 so as to complete the booster dose schedule as well to confirm the previous intake of vaccines. In case your child has missed the first dose, it can also be administered between the ages of 13-15, followed by a booster dose between the ages of 16-18.
Devastating as they are, most cases of meningococcal meningitis are vaccine-preventable. Many routine immunization programs have been observed in different countries to safeguard unprotected populations from its outbreak.
Advancing Meningococcal Disease Protection:
In the quest of fighting meningococcal meningitis epidemics, Sanofi Pasteur, one of the leading multinational pharmaceutical companies, has decided to extend the protective power of vaccination across the whole world.
Over the past few decades, Sanofi Pasteur has developed preventative strategies and therapies helping the society to control the spread of epidemics. At present, Sanofi Pasteur’s meningococcal quadrivalent conjugate vaccine is licensed in more than 70 countries with over 100 million doses distributed since its launch in 2004.
To achieve the WHO and MRF stated vision of a meningitis-free world by 2030, Sanofi Pasteur is wholly committed to making high-quality vaccines in association with renowned public health partners, patient associations, scientific and medical experts to meet the goal of offering broader protection to the world.
While there has been a rise in the global awareness towards lethal, infectious diseases such as meningococcal meningitis, I pledge to keep a more vigilant eye over other such emerging health threats that might hamper my child’s future. Because after all, health is the real wealth.
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. Alive n Kicking or the author should be in no way held responsible in that case.
Written after consultation and discussion with Dr. Abhijit Misra (MD Pediatrician – Healthwealthbridge board of advisors)
Author: Shilpa Bindlish