Meningitis CSM Cerebrospinal Meningitis
Cerebrospinal Meningitis

Health Tips: Ways Nigerians Can Safeguard themselves from Meningitis

By Maimuna Katuka Aliyu

Meningitis is a serious illness that is commonly known to affect young children, babies and teenagers more than adults. It can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (sepsis) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

Meningitis is an infection and inflammation of the fluid and membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges. It occurs due to a viral, bacterial, drug induced reactions or fungal infection which requires emergency medical treatment.

Some cases of meningitis improve without treatment in a few weeks. Others can cause death and require emergency treatment. The inflammation typically triggers early symptoms which may be similar to the flu.

Possible symptoms in anyone older than the age of 2 years include

Sudden high fever.
Stiff neck.
Severe headache.
Nausea or vomiting.
Confusion or trouble concentrating.
Sleepiness or trouble waking.
Sensitivity to light.
No appetite or thirst.
Skin rash in some cases, such as in meningococcal meningitis.

Newborns and infants may show these signs

High fever.
Constant crying.
Being very sleepy or irritable.
Trouble waking from sleep.
Being inactive or sluggish.
Not waking to eat.
Poor feeding.
A bulge in the soft spot-on top of the baby’s head.
Stiffness in the body and neck.
Infants with meningitis may be hard to comfort. They may even cry harder when held.

Each type of meningitis has a slightly different cause, but each ultimately acts in the same way: A bacterium, fungus, virus, or parasite spreads through the body (via the bloodstream, nerve endings, or even a dormant reactivation in the nervous system) until it reaches the brain, or spinal cord.

There, it sets up in the lining or fluids around these vital body parts and starts developing into a more advanced infection.

Non-infectious meningitis is the result of a physical injury or other condition; it doesn’t involve an infection.

Meningococcal meningitis, caused by Neisseria meningitis, is one version for which vaccines are available. While viral meningitis is more common, bacterial meningitis can be more dangerous if it’s not diagnosed and treated quickly.

Vaccinations offer some protection against certain causes of meningitis.

These include the:

– MenB vaccine – offered to babies aged 8 weeks, followed by a second dose at 16 weeks and a booster at 1 year
– 6-in-1 vaccine – offered to babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age
– pneumococcal vaccine – 2 doses offered to babies at 12 weeks and 1 year, and a single dose offered to adults aged 65 or over
– Hib/MenC vaccine – offered to babies at 1 year of age
– MMR vaccine – offered to babies at 1 year and a second dose at 3 years and 4 months
– MenACWY vaccine – offered to teenagers, sixth formers and “fresher” students going to university for the first time

Side effects of meningitis vaccine can include

– soreness, redness, and burning at the injection site.

– a low-grade fever for a day or two following the injection

– chills

– headache

– joint pain

– fatigue

Below are steps that can help prevent meningitis

– Wash your hands: Careful hand-washing helps prevent the spread of germs. Teach children to wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the toilet, spending time in a crowded public place or petting animals. Show them how to thoroughly wash and rinse their hands.
– Practice good hygiene: Don’t share drinks, foods, straws, eating utensils, lip balms or toothbrushes with anyone else. Teach children and teens to avoid sharing these items too.
– Stay healthy: Maintain your immune system by getting enough rest, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
– Cover your mouth: When you need to cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose.
– If you’re pregnant, take care with food: Reduce your risk of a listeria infection by cooking meat, including hot dogs and deli meat, to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). Avoid cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Choose cheeses that are clearly labelled as being made with pasteurized milk.