World Meningitis Day: Awareness is key

The second World Meningitis Day is being marked on April 24 to increase awareness about this dangerous disease. Over 90,000 people are affected by the disease in India every year.

On this occasion, Dr. Suresh Bapu, Senior Neurologist, Apollo Hospitals, talks to Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy about various aspects of the disease. Raising awareness on the benefits of vaccination in preventing meningitis is the focus of World Meningitis Day, he says.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Quick onset of fever, headache, vomiting, stiff neck accompanied by drowsiness, sensitivity to light and excessive sleepiness are the symptoms.

Is meningitis communicable?
Yes, it is an air-borne disease. Lack of general hygiene is responsible for its spread. Coughing and spitting of the sputum can spread the infection. Children are particularly at risk of infection.

What is the test for meningitis?
Fluid obtained from the spine after a lumbar puncture is used to diagnose the disease.

Do climatic factors account for spread of the disease?
No. But, generally, meningitis is known to be a third-world disease because awareness about vaccines is less and hence it is more prevalent in the developing world.

Please tell us about the vaccines available to prevent meningitis
Haemophilus meningitis and Pneumococcal meningitis are the strains commonly found in India. The H.influenza viral vaccine is available in Tamil Nadu and Kerala since last year. The vaccines are administered in two doses. Each vaccine costs about Rs. 4000 and it would help if the government subsidizes the cost so that it is made affordable to the common man.

What are the chances of recovery from meningitis?
About 25% of all cases will succumb to the disease and of those who recover about 30% suffer from after effects like blindness, deafness or even paralysis. Therefore, prevention and early treatment are of utmost importance.