(RxWiki News) Meningitis, which results in the inflammation of membranes around the spinal cord and brain, is a disease that causes death and disability around the world. Yet it can be prevented through the use of vaccines.
On April 24, various organizations across the globe will come together to celebrate World Meningitis Day and stress the importance of vaccinations to prevent this disease.
"Pay attention when flu symptoms include a stiff neck."
According to the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations (CoMO), an international group made up of health professionals, patients, organizations and families, 1.7 million people are affected by meningitis each year. Bacterial meningitis, both the most severe and most common form of the disease, leads to an estimated 170,000 deaths around the world annually.
CoMO estimates that around 10 percent of meningitis patients die and a further 20 percent end up with life-long disability or physical damage due to the disease.
According to CoMO, vaccines can help prevent some of these severe forms of meningitis, specifically meningococcal, pneumococcal or Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), which can all cause bacterial meningitis.
“The Hib vaccine has been widely available for many years and this has caused Hib meningitis to be close to elimination,” CoMO reports. “Sadly, this isn’t the case for the other causes of bacterial meningitis, leaving all of us, and particularly children under the age of 5 and adolescents, at risk of contracting the disease.”
The less severe forms (like viral meningitis) can improve on their own or in a few weeks, while the bacterial or fungal forms can be life-threatening, reports the Mayo Clinic.
According to the Mayo Clinic, early symptoms of meningitis can easily be mistaken for the flu. Symptoms may include high fever, nausea, sleepiness, vomiting, confusion, appetite loss and sensitivity to light.
“The swelling associated with meningitis often triggers the ‘hallmark’ signs and symptoms of this condition, including headache, fever and a stiff neck,” reports the Mayo Clinic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a meningitis vaccine is recommended routinely in America for children aged 11 through 18, including an initial dose and a booster dose later.
The vaccines and boosters are often stressed to young adults preparing to attend college and live in a dorm, as well as to other people living in a community setting.
“College students living in dormitories, personnel on military bases, and children in boarding schools and child care facilities are at increased risk of meningococcal meningitis,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “This increased risk likely occurs because the bacterium is spread by the respiratory route and tends to spread quickly wherever large groups congregate.”
CoMO stressed that through World Meningitis Day, “We want to urge governments worldwide to protect their citizens against meningitis by adding meningitis preventing vaccines to their country’s national immunization programme.”
World Meningitis Day is organized by CoMO and recognized annually on April 24. This year will mark the fifth year of observing the awareness day.