By Sola Ogundipe
ONE of the keys to curing of meningitis is prompt treatment.
This is one of the key messages as Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to mark World Meningitis Day – a great opportunity for people all over the world to raise their voices against meningitis, through telling patient stories, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease and increasing knowledge of available vaccines.
Twenty three States in Nigeria are currently battling an outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis, CSM, serotype C, with a total of 745 deaths and 8,057 suspected cases so far confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. The five most affected states are Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger.
World Meningitis Day was created in 2009 by the Confederation of Meningitis Organsations (CoMO) which is promoting the theme “24 Hours – Time to Act!”.
“Twenty-four hours can mean the difference between life and death for anyone at any age. It really can take just one day for a child, a teenager, an adult, to lose their lives to this terrible disease or suffer from long-term after effects.
The focus this year is on alerting families about how quickly the disease can spread.
A message from the Confederation urged Nigerians and others in areas with meningitis outbreak to trust their instincts once they spot any sign or symptom of meningitis in their child, relatives, friends or themselves, and seeks medical attention urgently.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes — or meninges – surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Infection is the most common source with viral or bacterial pathogens transmitted via saliva.
Meningitis can strike quickly and kill within hours.Knowing the signs and symptoms of meningitis, remaining vigilant and getting medical help quickly can save lives, so learn what to look out for today
Causes and risk factors Common causes of bacterial meningitis vary by age group. People at increased risk for bacterial meningitis include babies — compared to people in other age groups. However, people of any age can develop bacterial meningitis.
Signs and symptoms: Meningitis symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, and stiff neck. There are often other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental status (confusion).
In newborns and babies, the meningitis symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness may be absent or difficult to notice.
The baby may be irritable, vomit, feed poorly, or appear to be slow or inactive. Doctors may also look for a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on infant’s head) or abnormal reflexes.
If you think your baby or child has any of these symptoms, call the doctor right away. Symptoms can appear quickly or over several days. Typically they develop within 3 to 7 days after exposure.
Later symptoms of bacterial meningitis can be very serious (e.g., seizures, coma). It is important to start treatment as soon as possible.