As the death toll of Pneumococcal Meningitis in Ghana hit 32, generating fears among Ghanaians as to how the disease can be contained, here are five things you need to know about the disease.
1. Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Causes include bacterial, viral, parasites and even chemical. Bacterial meningitis is caused by various bacterial pathogens. Neisseria meningitides, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemphilus influenza type b represents the triad responsible for over 80% of all cases of bacterial meningitis.
Note, this is not Epidemic Meningococcal Disease or CSM, which is caused by Neisseria meningitides, which has potential for massive and widespread outbreaks.
Meanwhile, with this kind of meningitis, fatality is high but potential for massive spread is low.
2. Transmission or spread of Pneumococcal Meningitis is by direct contact, including respiratory droplets from nose and throat of infected persons or carriers. Carrier rates may be as high as 25% during endemic periods and as high as 50% during epidemics. Incubation period varies from 2 to 10 days, an average of 3-4 days.
Pneumococcal bacteria also spread through direct contact with secretions from the nose and throat. The bacteria spread through close, direct physical contact: kissing, coughing or sneezing. They also spread through saliva.
3. Signs and symptoms of meningitis include sudden onset of severe headache, fever, vomiting, neck stiffness and photophobia (dislike for light). Other symptoms include lethargy, coma and convulsions. In babies, there may be bulging of the anterior fontanelle (soft part of the bead). If you notice these symptoms, kindly report to the nearest health facility.
4. You must avoid overcrowding, drink enough water to prevent dryness of the throat, prevent cough and sneezing etiquettes.
Other preventive measures include avoiding mosquito bite, sleeping in insecticide treated bed nets, environmental cleanliness and preventing stagnation of water in tins and tyres.
5. Most cases of Pneumococcal meningitis are in children under two years of age, elderly adults and people with risk factors:
Lack of spleen (removed due to accident or sickle cell anaemia)
Suppression of immune system from cancer therapy, organ transplants, AIDS, steroid treatment
Chronic heart, lung or kidney disease
Alcoholism or liver disease
Smoking, second hand smokeSkull fractures, head surgery, or skull malformation
Pneumococcal meningitis is treated with high doses of antibiotics, given by vein.