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While it is assumed that a lot of people are aware of the disease, quite a few understands what it entails.
“I was told my baby boy had meningitis when he was about 4 months old and we spent almost a month in the hospital receiving treatments, I thought I was going to lose him then but he survived,” said Mrs Adetunji, a teacher. “I wasn’t told categorically that it can be spread then, but I knew it was deadly.”
“I’m not sure, but it sound like an infection or a disease,” said Lolade, a trader.
Meningitis is an infection affecting the covering of the brain and spinal cord collectively known as the meninges, it can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and the likes with their various causative organisms.
Bacterial meningitis is very serious and can be deadly. Death can occur in as little as a few hours. Most people recover from meningitis. However, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) can result from the infection.
While the condition is classified as a medical emergency, because of it’s proximity to the brain and spinal cord, a lot of people defer from presentation based on various factors which includes the pattern of presentation.
Meningitis present in a way that can be initially confused with malaria, an endemic disease in Nigeria and other African countries with fever and headache initially, confusion, altered consciousness, neck stiffness, inability to tolerate noise or light and other symptoms like poor feeding, drowsiness and irritability.
Belief in witchcraft is currently making the fight against meningitis difficult. Families were refusing to bring suspected cases to the hospital attributing the illness to witchcraft. This is an important factor that can increase the statistics thereby making the effort of both government and NGOs to be futile.
While measures are being put in place to contain the disease, constituting emergency response team, supplying antibiotics and other materials, adequate health education and enlightenment concerning the disease and the route of transmission is paramount for keeping suspected affected persons at home will only make the disease worse; it will cause transmission to other members of the family.
But how can it be prevented?
Residents should reduce the number of persons that take care of confirmed meningitis patients, avoid sleeping in overcrowded rooms and ensure personal and environmental hygiene as the infection can spread through air droplets and contact with throat and nasal secretions
hence the following measures should be embraced:proper disposal of respiratory and throat secretions, strict observance of hand hygiene; reduce hand shaking, kissing, sharing utensils or medical intervention such as mouth resuscitation.
No doubt immunization can provide long term protection which was why Nigerian senators resolved to make meningitis vaccine to be freely available at all public health facilities across the country.
While the thoughts are good, there is a lil problem about its implementation. Presently, meningitis vaccine is very expensive; even if there is money for it, the vaccine is also scarce.
Now this is a major public health challenge of epic proportion – more reason why everyone should be concerned about knowing how to prevent the disease in the first place.