Meningitis is a highly contagious disease which spreads from person to person. It is a disease of the cover of the brain and spinal cord. It is found all over the world but more common in crowded communities with poor ventilation. In Nigeria, it is more common in the northern part which lies within the “Meningitis Belt”. People in all ages can have the disease but those under 30 years are more at risk.
1. What Causes Meningitis?
Meningitis is caused by several agents on individual basis. It could be due to bacteria, virus, fungi, parasites or even injuries or cancer.
2. How Does Meningitis Spread?
The way meningitis spreads from person to person depends on the agent that caused the disease. If caused` by bacteria, it will spread through coughing, sneezing if close to the sick person or discharges can be blown as droplets later to other persons. It can also spread through kissing, sharing lip sticks/lip savers, tooth brushes etc.
If caused by a virus, it spreads by faecal (Stool) contamination of hands resulting from failure to wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing baby diapers. There are other means of spread but these two are the most important.
3. When Do You Suspect You May Have Meningitis?
Meningitis season is here, see a doctor if you or a member of your family has the following symptoms: high fever, constant headache with vomiting, stiffness of the neck, sensitivity to light such that the person does not want to see light.Convulsions, and unconsciousness are other symptoms. Though many other diseases have similar symptoms, you are to see the doctor immediately.
4. What Can Put You at Risk?
Several factors can put you at risk of contracting the disease. These include;
a. Incomplete vaccination or lack of vaccination:- vaccines against meningitis caused by bacteria or virus are available.
b. Age: viral meningitis is more common in children under five years of age while the infection by bacteria is more common in the age bracket 10 years to 25 years, however, in Nigeria during immunization against meningitis extension is made to those under 30 years.
c. Crowded communities: meningitis is more common among persons living in boarding houses/dormitories and barracks. Out breaks can also occur in Day care centres.
d. Chronic Illness like Diabetes, cancer, HIV increases the risk of contracting the disease especially due to fungus.
5. What are the possible complications of meningitis?
Possible complications of meningitis infection include deafness, brain damage, epilepsy, kidney failure, unconsciousness and death.
6. Can Meningitis be prevented.?
Meningitis whether caused by virus, bacteria, fungus, low immunity or parasites is preventable one way or the other. You can ward off meningitis by:
a. Personal hygiene: wash hands with soap and water after using the toilet or changing baby diapers. Do not share lip sticks/savers, tooth brush or drinking straws. Learn to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a handkerchief.
b. Get yourself and your family vaccinated against meningitis in full.