Hello everyone. I trust y’all had a great week. As I promised earlier in the week, I will be writing on meningitis today. Everyone has heard, I believe, about the outbreak in Nigeria and the fact that deaths have been recorded. What appears even more scary is the fact that it is moving from the north to the south. So, this information pertains to everyone and should be taken seriously.
Cerebrospinal meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord known as meninges. The infection could be bacterial, viral or fungal. The infection making the rounds in Nigeria is linked to the organism, Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus). This causes an upper respiratory tract infection, which can also cause meningitis when it enters the blood stream. It is a droplet infection and very contagious, spread through coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing utensils, toothbrushes and cutlery. Thus, conditions of overcrowding may encourage its spread with school dormitories/hostels, boarding houses etc being at risk.
The early symptoms include high temperature, headache, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck and sensitivity to light (photophobia). Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating, seizures, sleepiness, loss of appetite etc. In children, the symptoms include fever, neck and body stiffness, bulging anterior fontanel, sleepiness, poor feeding, irritability etc.
There is a vaccine for the prevention of meningitis and treatment would usually involve antibiotics (in bacterial meningitis as in this outbreak) to prevent further spread of infection.
Prevention is however key given the means of spread of this infection.
- Personal hygiene is key. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
This is a no-brainer, right? If you sneeze into your hands and then touch your face or nose, you are constantly re-infecting yourself and so you may remain a major source of infection for a while. If you leave your face, well alone, then you are more likely to kick the bugs faster.
- Keep your drinking glasses and towels separate from other people.
Again, this appears to be common sense. Don’t drink from the same glasses as other people and please keep your towels separate from other people. Be sure to remember that these ‘other people’ include our significant others. Kissing is also on the list of activities that can promote spread of this infection. So, if someone has meningitis, you may want to give up kissing that person until infection is treated. Mhmmm! So find other ways of showing love at this time 😀
- If possible, avoid being close to other people
As much as possible, avoid invading other people’s private spaces and stop people from invading yours. That way you don’t expel your droplet infections right into their faces and bodies. In fact, if you have a baby, you may have to use a face mask. Be sure to cover your cough!
- Do not shake people if you have just coughed or sneezed into your hands.
Just in case, in spite of your best efforts, you still find that you have just sneezed or coughed into your hands, be sure not to shake anyone and wash your immediately.
- Stop spitting indiscriminately. People can ‘catch’ droplet infections like meningitis from this.
If you or anyone you know experience any of the symptoms noted above, please go to the hospital immediately. Do not attempt self-medication at all.
That’s it. Stay safe y’all 😀