Meningococcal Meningitis In Children – An Overview

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Just like every new mother, I also came to know about meningitis from the pediatrician after my first child was born. Needless to say, the vaccination and immunization chart looked all Greek and Latin to me. I wanted to know about every vaccine and the importance of immunization, and our pediatrician explained all of it to me, in a very patient manner.

At the bottom of the chart, there was a box which had ‘meningococcal meningitis’ written inside it. I had heard from my friends and relatives about all other vaccines, except this one. On asking further, our pediatrician gave us all the details.

What Is Meningococcal Meningitis?

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Meningococcal Meningitis is a rare but serious bacterial infection that causes the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. About 1 in 10 people carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of theirnose or throat with no signs or symptoms of the disease; this is known as being ‘a carrier’(1).

It is a rare but potentially devastating disease that can claim a life in as little as 24 hours (5). One in 10 people who develop the disease may not survive, and up to 10-20% of survivors suffer from serious complications such as amputation, scars, deafness or brain damage (4).

What Causes Meningococcal Meningitis?

There are two primary causes of meningitis – virus, and bacteria. Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection and causes meningitis in children and adolescents.

Infants and children younger than five years, and adolescents between 15–19 years of age are those most at risk.

What Are The Symptoms Of Meningococcal Meningitis?

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The main symptoms of meningococcal meningitis appear similar to that of the flu(1). These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light and drowsiness

The signs and symptoms of meningococcal meningitis don’t have a fixed pattern. They may appear one after another, all together or not at all. Hence, always keep an eye whenever your children catch the flu. Consult a doctor if possible.

In infants, these symptoms appear slightly different (3). The symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Unusual, high-pitched cry
  • Discomfort when picked up
  • Difficulty in waking up
  • Loss of appetite, refusing food or drink
  • Blank staring (vacant look)
  • Pale or blotchy skin
  • Rash or spots that don’t fade with pressure (also called purpura or petechiae)*
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Bulging fontanelle
  • Neck retraction

How Can Meningococcal Meningitis Be Prevented?

Meningococcal meningitis is a very serious infection and can lead to death if not treated on time with proper medical attention. It is communicable via saliva and other oral secretions. The only way it can be prevented is by acting fast and starting the treatment as soon as symptoms appear and the infection is detected.

However, getting vaccinated is by far the best preventive measure available.  Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV) is available and can be given to infants as young as 9-months-old (6). So, get your child vaccinated before it is too late.


Author: Surbhi

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 your child’s health should be taken after consultation with your doctor. While all efforts are made to keep articles updated, the speed of research in these fields means the information may often change as more research knowledge becomes available. The blog or the author should be in no way held responsible in that case.