Children are particularly at risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis, which is why it’s worth considering getting your kids vaccinated against the deadly disease.
Meningococcal meningitis can be devastating as it has a high fatality rate and can leave life-changing and permanent impacts on survivors, even when adequate treatment is provided.
“Meningococcal meningitis can end the life of a child in less than 24 hours,” says Dr Nasiha Soofie, Medical Head for Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines in South Africa.
“Up to 20% of survivors, at any age, are at risk of severe, permanent complications like deafness, amputation and mental disorders. That’s why prevention through vaccination is vital.”
What is a meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord also called meningitis.5a
Meningitis is an extremely serious disease and can be fatal.4a It can also cause serious complications especially permanent neurologic damage.2a
Who is at risk?
The highest incidence of meningococcal disease is in infants younger than 12 months, but a second, lower peak occurs in adolescence.3a
Risk factors for acquisition of carriage (which is a prerequisite for disease) include exposure to second-hand smoking, intimate personal contact (kissing), pub attendance, overcrowding, the attendance of mass gatherings and previous antibiotic use1i, 5b
Meningococcal disease is endemic in South Africa with sporadic cases occurring throughout the year, usually increasing from May to October.1i
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
The most common symptoms of meningitis include: 5c
- Stiff neck
- High fever
- Sensitivity to light
The preventive vaccination
“The best way to protect your family is to make sure they are vaccinated,” says Dr Soofie.
“The meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against four types of meningococcal bacteria and is recommended for all infants and children. It provides your loved ones with optimal protection against this devastating disease.”
It’s recommended that infants nine months through to 23 months should be given a two-dose primary vaccination series with a dosing interval of 12 weeks, while healthy children two years and older require just a single primary dose.1g.
A booster dose should be given if the meningococcal vaccine has been given more than five years previously.1e
For adolescents and young adults, vaccination should be considered before they enter their first year of university or college, especially if they will be staying in a residence hall or hostel.1h
“No one should ever have to see their child, sibling, friend or classmate suffer or die from a disease that is vaccine-preventable,” says Dr Soofie.
Protect your children and prevent the spread of meningitis in schools and your community. Speak to your doctor of pharmacist for further information about optimal protection against this devastating disease.