Meningococcal Meningitis: A Rare But Potentially Devastating Disease

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What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (known as meninges). A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord usually causes the swelling(1). However, this may be caused by other infections, drugs and injury leading to meningitis.

Meningococcal Meningitis – A Devastating Infection

Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) is a rare but potentially devastating bacterial infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis. It commonly presents as an infection of the brain (meningitis) and/or infection of the blood (septicemia or blood poisoning) (2). Despite advances in medical care, the disease may kill in a matter of hours or cause severe long-term sequelae with devastating effects on the individuals and their families (2) with significant lifelong economic impact on society (3).

It is highly unpredictable and can affect anyone, at any age, anywhere in the world, however some people are at higher risk than others (2). In some cases, the disease can claim a life within 24 hours after first symptom appears (4)

Over the last 10 years in India, more than 50,000 cases have been identified for Meningococcal Meningitis, with more than 3,000 deaths (5).

As per the reports, 1 in 10 people who develop the disease may die from it and up to 10-20% of survivors suffer from serious complications such as amputation, scars, deafness or brain damage (6), (7)

Anyone Can Be At The Risk of Being Infected

While meningococcal meningitis mainly affects children below the age of five, adolescents and young adults, it can affect anyone, anywhere in the world. Most meningococcal meningitis occurs in otherwise healthy individuals without identifiable risk factors. Notably, a relatively large number of cases are also observed among older adults (8)

Increased risk factors include:

  • Living in community settings (e.g. military and college students in dormitories) or participating in mass gathering events such as the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (9)
  • Certain medical conditions, including HIV infection / asplenia / a compromised immune system / deficiencies of either immunoglobulins or complement (9)

Travelling to endemic areas such as the meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa (9)

Provide Comprehensive Protection Against All Types of Vaccine Preventable Meningitis

Meningitis is a serious disease, caused by bacteria, viral and/or other reasons. Unfortunately vaccination is not available against all of them (10).

Vaccination is available against 3 major causes of bacterial meningitis. The causative agents being:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, that causes Pneumococcal meningitis
  • Haemophilus influenza type b, that causes of Haemophilus Meningitis
  • Neisseria meningitides, that causes of Meningococcal Meningitis

Discuss with your pediatrician on these 3 common causes of bacterial meningitis and ways to protect your child against them.

Together Against Meningitis

The threat of Meningococcal Meningitis is large, but awareness is low. Join the movement by spreading awareness on this potentially devastating disease. Share this article on your social media so we can all stand “Together Against Meningitis”

This article is issued in public interest by Sanofi Pasteur.