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 swelling1. 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 is commonly seen 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 families2 with a significant lifelong economic impact on society3.
It is highly unpredictable and can affect anyone, at any age, anywhere in the world, however, some people are at higher risk than others2. In some cases, the disease can claim a life within 24 hours after the 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 deaths5.
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 damage6,7
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 adults8
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 Mecca9
- Certain medical conditions, including HIV infection/asplenia/ a compromised immune system/deficiencies of either immunoglobulins or complement9 Traveling to endemic areas such as the meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa9
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 them10.
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 of 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.
1 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Accessed on May 2019
2 Meningitis Research Foundation. What are meningitis and septicaemia? Accessed March 2019.
3 Wright C, Wordsworth R, Glennie L. Counting the cost of meningococcal disease. Pediatric Drugs. Volume 15, Issue 1, January 2013. Pages 49-58. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40272-012-0006-0
4 Thompson MJ et al. Clinical recognition of meningococcal disease in children and adolescents. Lancet. 2006 Feb 4367(9508):397403
5 Data from national health profile report 2007 – 2018, confirmed cases: http://cbhidghs.nic.in/index.asp
6 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Meningococcal disease – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications. Accessed February 2019.
7 Meningitis now. After-effects of septicaemia. Accessed February 2019.
8 Martinón-Torres, F. Deciphering the Burden of Meningococcal Disease: Conventional and Under-recognized Elements. Journal of Adolescent Health 59. Volume 59, Issue 1, March 2016. Pages 12-20.
9 CDC. Meningococcal disease – Medical conditions risk factors. Accessed February 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/risk-medical.html
10 Meningitis Research Foundation. What causes meningitis and septicaemia? Accessed on May 2019