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[Analyses]–According to data released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), meningitis has killed 438 Nigerians so far.
Meningitis is the (swelling) of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord known as the meninges. This inflammation is usually caused by an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria or viruses.
The current outbreak in the country is caused by Type C strain, which is rare and different from the the type B strain. Past vaccination against Meningitis will NOT guarantee protection against this strain as the vaccines commonly available in Nigeria are against the type B strain.
Meningitis spreads through close personal contact such as coughing, sneezing, and kissing. Contact with throat secretions from an infected person (for example, phlegm or saliva).
Sharing personal belongings.
Poor personal hygiene.
Note that previous contact with someone who was diagnosed with meningitis increases the chances of getting infected.
MAJOR SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Symptoms can come on very quickly or gradually over a few days. It can kill within 24 hours so you need to be very observant and watch out for the following symptoms:
- A very strong aversion for light. The person always looks away from bright light and prefers dark rooms.
- Neck stiffness and pain that makes it difficult to touch your chin to your chest as such moving the neck causes severe pains.
- Others include: Seizures, Sleepiness, and sluggishness, Nausea and vomiting, Decreased appetite, Confusion and disorientation (acting goofy), Skin rash, as well as Irritability.
WHO IS MOST SUSCEPTIBLE?
- People with low immunity e.g. people with HIV/AIDS, autoimmune disorders, chemotherapy etc
- People sleeping in crowded spaces including children in boarding schools, prisons, etc
- Pregnant women
- Children under the age of 5years old and the elderly
The good news is that this deadly disease can be prevented. The most effective form of prevention is VACCINATION with the MENINGOCOCCAL Vaccine type C. Since this vaccine is currently not abundance, these are other measures that can be taken:
- Avoid prolonged personal contact with people suspected, or confirmed to be infected as well as their body secretions..
- Avoid sharing personal items with people suspected, or confirmed to be infected.
- Get vaccinated if available; Vaccines which can help protect against Meningitis are: Haemophilus Influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine Meningococcal vaccine
- Get adequate rest
- Avoid smoking
- If you have been in contact with a sick person in an affected area, visit your doctor to give you preventive antibiotics to reduce chances of contacting the disease and also carry out further evaluations with these preventive drugs have been recommended by medical experts:
- RIFAMPICIN 600mg TWICE daily for two days.The Tablet Rifampicin is mainly used for treating Tuberculosis, but is globally used for prophylaxis against Meningitis. Being a TB drug, it should be widely available in Nigeria. While the government seeks to generate funds for the meningococcal vaccine, this measure can be lifesaving for contacts of those infected.
- A single dose of 500mg CIPROFLOXACIN
- A single administration of CEFTRIAXONE intramuscularly 125mg for children and 250mg for adults.
If you come down with any of the previously mentioned symptoms, go to the hospital IMMEDIATELY and avoid people touching you unnecessarily.
Once meningitis is strongly suspected or confirmed, please DO NOT STAY AT HOME. Go to a hospital with facilities where you can get an IV line, isolation room, and the required antibiotics for treatment.
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