Meningitis is a disease condition in which microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and even chemical agents invade the protective coverings of the brain and spinal cord, called meninges, causing the immune system in this part of the body to react against them. The immune system reaction while trying to destroy these microorganisms also affect the meninges, hence the name meningitis.
Currently, there’s an outbreak of meningitis in some states in the northern part of Nigeria. This particular meningitis is caused by a bacterial organism called Neisseria meningitidis. The microorganism usually invades the wall of the nose and throat where it may not lead to infection until the time is right: the person’s immunity is down or there’s a large number of people carrying the microorganism crowded in a small pace. These conditions enable the bacteria to enter the blood and spread to different parts of the body including the brain.
Meningitis caused by the Neisseria meningitidis microorganism occurs commonly as outbreaks in the northern part of Nigeria during the dry season, between December and March. Infection results when a healthy person comes in contact with droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person.
This happens very commonly during the dry season because of the dusty nature of the weather that carries droplets from people’s noses or throats coupled with crowded living conditions in places like prisons, internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and markets. Also, smoking, a viral infection of the respiratory tract or immunodeficiency diseases like HIV predisposes people to infection by the Neisseria meningitidis which can go on to infect the protective coverings of the brain and spinal cord, causing meningitis.
People with meningitis usually complain of the following:
-the feeling of vomiting
-neck stiffness which may be absent in children less than one year
-severe eye pain on exposure to bright lights
Young children with meningitis may be restless, crying all the time and may have convulsions especially in the first few days. Older people may have abnormal mental manifestations because of the irritation to the brain coverings.
Meningitis is a very serious and life-threatening condition which requires immediate medical attention. If treatment with the appropriate antibiotics is started early, most patients recover completely, especially if there is no history of convulsion, coma or abnormal changes in the mental status in the patients. However, in some cases, there may be complications such as deafness, eye problems or problems with speaking.
In addition, every household member and other people who came in contact with someone being treated for meningitis must receive complete antibiotics treatment to prevent them from developing and spreading the disease.
Most importantly, everyone is advised to receive the cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM) vaccine to build up immunity against the microorganism. Also, people should adopt hygienic measures, avoid sleeping in overcrowded rooms and keep their rooms ventilated to curtail the spread of meningitis.
For more advice and help, feel free to ask a Doctor on Kangpe