Compiled and submitted by Igbo Gabriel
The Nigerian centre for disease control (NCDC) has raised an alarm in February over the outbreak of meningitis across north western (Zamfara state to be precise) Nigeria. It was recorded that as at 30th of March 2017, 282were confirmed dead while on the 4th of April, the death toll rose to 336 and as at April 7, 2017, it rose to 438. This predicament brings us into looking deep into what meningitis is all about.
Meningitis from the word or it’s most affected region was coined from the ‘MENINGES’ which involves three membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis occurs when the fluid surrounding the meninges becomes infected. It’s an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
There are several causes of meningitis such as pneumonia, irritation, drug allergies and some cancer related diseases. Apart from these cause which are mere, there are more serious and severe causes of this meningitis which are in two forms namely viral and bacterial infections. The most common of it is the viral infection. It has been discovered that it affects 10 to 15 percent of infants per year. It affects 85% of the entire population, but the most interesting thing about viral infection is that it only affects a small percentage of people and only a smaller percent with viral infection develop meningitis. It is also interesting to know that the viral infection can go away without treatment.
Bacterial meningitis is more deadly and dangerous. It becomes chronic if left untreated and unattended for a significant amount of time. It affects about 5% of children and between 20 to 50% of adults which eventually leads to the death of the patient even when proper treatment is administered at the right time. Bacteria that cause meningitis can be found in the respiratory tract, sinuses and nasal cavity.
Furthermore, meningitis can be transmitted through body fluid such as blood and body discharge. Symptoms ranging between viral and bacterial meningitis are similar but bacterial meningitis is more severe. Symptoms vary depending on the age which includes decreased appetite, irritability, sleepiness, lethargy, fever, stiff neck, seizure, photophobia(sensitivity to light), phonophobia(sensitivity to sound), nausea and headache. However bacterial meningitis is bound to develop suddenly and its symptoms may include altered mental status and nausea.
Meningitis can be very deadly and lethal. This is the reason why it’s important to be medically alert at any time. Once any of the above symptoms are noticed, seek immediate medical diagnosis and treatment. One cannot deduce the presence of meningitis merely through feeling, a doctor is more suited to determine whether one has the disease or not. Meningitis may be deadly but ignorance is deadlier, one must not ignore their health until it’s chronic lest it becomes too late.
However, meningitis can be complicated, as certain demographics are more vulnerable to the disease and this includes people with immune deficiency diseases that weaken the immune system like HIV, AIDS, organs or bone marrow transplants. Another set of people prone to meningitis are people living together in relatively small environments, which may include people living in dormitories, barracks, day care centers where people mingle constantly and have close body contact. Pregnant women are also at risk of contacting the disease as it can affect their unborn children and children under the age of 5 are also at a high risk of contacting viral meningitis.
In a nutshell, having known about all these, diagnosis becomes necessary which gives rise to the question of how. Doctors can perform a procedure known as lumbar puncture which involves the injection of a needle into the base of tof skull in order to extract some cerebro spinal fluid that can be tested in order to discover whether the patient has meningitis or not.
To crown it all, treatment of meningitis is best determined early. Prevention is better than cure, hence ways of preventing the disease should be announced and widespread if not, this article would be incomplete. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is ultimately paramount, which includes been aware of what goes into one’s mouth, what one puts on their body, the people one mingles with. For those who are prone or vulnerable to meningitis, they are advised to get adequate amount of rest, avoid vices like smoking, avoid contact with sick people and opt for vaccination as early as possible. Sadly the absence of the knowledge of vaccination is the chief reason for the rampant spread of the disease in the northern part of Nigeria.
I hope you have been enlightened by this article. Share it and spread the word to as many people you know and together we can cull this plague efficiently.