One of the most discussed topics of the last month in the British media was the death of two-year-old Faye Burdett from bacterial meningitis on Valentine’s Day. For 11 days, the infection literally devoured the girl.
Fei’s parents published shocking images of a dying baby in order to draw public attention to the need for a state vaccination program for meningococcal disease.
Faye’s parents were joined by other families who lost their children from meningitis. They are calling on the UK government to vaccinate all children under the age of 11 from infection. Meanwhile, it is this state that plans to become the first country in the world where all newborns will be vaccinated against meningococcal infection.
However, only babies born after July 1, 2015 fall under this vaccination program. However, many children, such as Fay, remain defenseless.
What is meningitis and how to protect a child from it? We have collected 5 facts about meningitis that any parent should know.
Meningitis is a severe disease of the nervous system, in which the hard lining of the brain is affected by various viruses, bacteria or fungi. Meningitis can also develop as a result of a head injury or as a reaction to serious treatment. The disease may be primary, when the infection immediately enters the brain, or secondary, when the development of meningitis is promoted by another infection (otitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis, chicken pox, etc.).
Penetrating through the protective blood-brain barrier to the brain, bacteria and viruses can easily multiply there, as in this area there are no antibodies capable of fighting them. Therefore, when meningitis is so important in time to start treatment to stop the disease.
According to statistics, about 80 percent of meningitis is caused by viruses (herpes, mumps, enterovirus). Such diseases are more easily tolerated, and with timely treatment, the patient fully recovers.
The most severe are meningitis of bacterial origin (pneumococcal, hemophilic, meningococcal and tuberculosis). They develop rapidly due to the fact that the causative bacteria penetrate into the bloodstream and more often cause serious complications and are fatal.
At risk – children! The peak incidence of meningitis occurs in children aged 1 to 6 years. The incidence of meningitis in schoolchildren is much lower, and in adults it is very rare.
In meningitis, there is seasonality: the highest probability of encountering this disease exists in the winter-spring period due to the increased activity of viruses and bacteria. Meningitis also has an annual cycle: every 10-15 years, an increase in incidence occurs.
Although meningitis may be accompanied by symptoms characteristic of many viral and bacterial infections, this disease has its own signs that every parent should know about!
- high body temperature (often with the hands and feet of a child cold),
- very bad headache
- repeated vomiting without relief
- stiff neck (the child can not tilt his head forward, so often the patient with meningitis lies with his head thrown back)
- pale skin
- confusion or loss of consciousness
- rash red or purple in the form of spots that do not disappear when pressed (typical of meningitis caused by meningococcal infection),
- in young children (up to 1 year), the main symptom of meningitis is bulging of the spring and constant monotonous crying.
With timely treatment started, meningitis passes without complications. However, the health of a child after an illness is often significantly impaired. The most common complications after meningitis include:
- attention disorders, irritability and irritability, private headaches;
- hearing loss or deafness;
- speech delay, general mental retardation;
- hydrocephalus (increased intracranial pressure);
- epileptic seizures.
In each individual case, these manifestations can both diminish and even pass with time, as well as remind of a past illness for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, the panacea for such a terrible disease does not exist, because it can be caused by a huge number of bacteria and viruses. However, the most important role in reducing the risk of getting a severe form of the disease is timely vaccination of children against infections such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella.
All these vaccines are provided by our state for free, as they are included in the national calendar of preventive vaccinations.
If a child plans to attend kindergarten, it is useful to vaccinate him against pneumococcal, meningococcal, as well as hemophilic infection type b. In our country, vaccination against these infections on a national scale is not made and is paid for by parents.
Meningitis often occurs in weakened, often ill children, and therefore measures of strengthening children’s immunity serve as a kind of prevention of this disease: hardening, walking in fresh air, physical exertion, proper nutrition and timely treatment of viral and bacterial infections.
- meningitis can be affected several times in one’s life, and its different forms: the body does not produce immunity for this disease;
- Most cases of meningitis respond well to treatment if measures are taken on the first day of the illness. The later treatment is begun, the greater the chance of developing complications;
- there is a genetic predisposition to meningitis: if there are cases of this disease in your family, it is necessary to vaccinate a child against meningococcal, pneumococcal and hemophilic infections of type b;
- the only way to distinguish viral meningitis from bacterial is analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid. The timely determination of the nature of meningitis is vital, since the treatment of these types of diseases is very different.