When my kid was about 10 months old, all of sudden one morning he woke up very sick. It seemed like a normal cold, but he looked very uncomfortable. I took him to his pediatrician. As I was waiting for my turn to see the doctor, I happen to glance over at a pamphlet that was lying on a nearby table. It stated how meningococcal meningitis was a deadly disease with symptoms similar to what my son was having. I realized my son was not vaccinated against this disease. Later my doctor confirmed that my son was actually having a common cold and cough. After a few days of his recovery, I got him vaccinated for meningococcal meningitis.
I still feel the fear that I was feeling that day, the fear of losing him to a disease that is hard to recognize at first. And that is why I felt really compelled as a mother, to share every bit of information with you that I know about meningococcal meningitis, hoping you would act before it’s too late.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV) is a vaccine that protects against 1 out of 3 bacteria that are known to cause the most common types of acute bacterial meningitis. Meningococcal meningitisis a deadly disease which can claim one’s life within 24 hours of the occurrence of the first symptom. Even if the patient survives, it can lead to lifetime disabilities. Currently, in India, the national vaccine program, doesn’t list MCV as mandatory because officially the cases are rare, but seeing the deadly nature of the disease, we must make sure our kid is protected against this deadly disease.
What Is Meningitis?
Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. When the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord get infected by a virus or bacteria, it gives rise to this deadly disease. Not just viral or bacterial infection, but, injuries, cancer, certain drugs and other kinds of infections can also lead to the disease.
Types Of Meningitis
The main types of meningitis infection are:
- Bacterial meningitis is an aggressive and quick developing condition, caused by bacteria, that results in inflammation of the brain’s lining. The most common cause of bacterial meningitis are the Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria. There are well-tolerated and effective vaccines that help protect against the most common causes of bacterial meningitis.
- Viral meningitis is the most common cause of meningitis and is usually less severe. Most patients recover without any permanent damage, although full recovery may take many weeks or months. Meningitis-causing viruses include enteroviruses (which commonly cause colds and sore throats), and the mumps virus. There are no vaccines available for this kind of meningitis.
Symptoms Of Meningococcal Meningitis
This is a deadly disease, and one out of five people who contract the infection, have serious complications. Some of those who survive, face lifelong complications. They could suffer from hearing loss, brain damage, and neurological problems. Another problem is to identify the real disease. The early stage symptoms of meningococcal meningitis are quite similar to common viral infections. Also, the symptoms can vary from person to person depending upon his age, immunity, and his body’s reaction to the infection.
The early stage symptoms of meningococcal meningitis include:
- Generally feeling unwell
- Severe and persistent headache
- Neck stiffness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Discomfort in bright lights
- Drowsiness or difficulty in awakening
- Joint pain
- Confusion and other mental changes
Who Is At The Risk Of Getting Meningococcal Meningitis?
Babies &kids because their immune system is still developing. They have poor self-protection against deadly bacterial and viral infections. Moreover, they might not be able to clearly express how they feel. This will make it difficult to recognize the disease by the medical practitioner, leading to delay in treatment.
What Is The Ideal Age For My Baby To Get Meningococcal Vaccine?
- Protection against meningococcal infection could be offered at an early age, discuss with your pediatrician for the right age to protect, in your next visit.
What Are The Side Effects Of Meningococcal Vaccine?
There are few mild side effects of Meningococcal Vaccine. You could ask your pediatrician for detail information on that, however, some of them could be:
- Fever, headache, nausea, diarrhea
- You can also notice redness or swelling on the spot where the shot was given.
My Kid Eats Healthy, Can He Still Catch Meningococcal Meningitis?
Eating healthy does not guarantee protection against infection in general. Kids’ immune systems are not fully developed, and they are more likely to get bacterial and viral infections than adults. Infants and young children are more prone to contracting this infection because they frequently visit public places such as schools, parks and other community groups. They also tend to share their water bottles and are less aware of hygiene.
Meningitis is contagious and it could spread via sneezing and coughing. Also through exposure to other common respiratory and throat secretions (infected ones). Getting the Meningococcal Vaccine is the best protection against Meningococcal Meningitis for your kid.
If Meningococcal Meningitis Is A Fatal Disease, Why Is It Not Officially Included In The National Vaccine Program?
Because, officially, it is a rare disease in India. Being rare does not mean it’s not fatal. It can kill a perfectly healthy kid/adult within 24 hours. Doesn’t that indicate how deadly this disease is? According to the National Health Profile Report, in the year 2017, a total of 3251 provisional cases of meningitis were reported, out of which 205 cases proved to be fatal. Just by looking at the death toll you can understand that it’s better to get your child vaccinated against the disease.
Being a parent, you always do what’s in the best interest of your child. It is a life-threatening disease and we must act, as we are responsible for our kid’s well-being.
Author: Nisha Malik
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 taken after consultation with your doctor. 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. The blog or the author should be in no way held responsible in that case.