Millions of Africans are Still at Risk of Contracting Meningitis – WHO (Meaning, Causes, Symptoms)

The World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa has said that more than 400 million Africans are still at risk of seasonal meningitis outbreaks.

The WHO said though the disease had remained off the radar for too long, the outbreaks negatively impacted health systems, economies and impoverished the entire population forced to contend with multiple health and socio-economic challenges.

The global health body also said that the COVID-19 pandemic have been the cause of delay in the meningitis vaccination campaigns for more than 50 million children in Africa, adding that the region was at a heightened risk of outbreaks of meningitis type A, which had nearly been eliminated on the continent.

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What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the fluid and three membranes (meninges) surrounding your brain and spinal cord.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

The symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis can be similar in the beginning.

However, bacterial meningitis symptoms are usually more severe. The symptoms also vary depending on your age.

Viral meningitis symptoms in both infants and adults includes;

Viral meningitis in infants may cause:

  • Decreased Appetite
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rash
  • Respiratory symptoms

In adults, viral meningitis may cause:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Sleepiness
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased Appetite
  • Altered mental state

Causes of Meningitis

Meningitis is caused by inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and is transmitted via a sneeze, saliva, or phlegm from the nose and throat of infected persons.

Acute bacterial meningitis is one of the deadliest and most disabling forms of illness.

It can cause death within 24 hours and leave one in five infected people with lifelong disabilities.

Other causes may include:

  • Cancer
  • Fungi
  • Drug-induced reactions

Some viral and bacterial meningitis are contagious. They can be transmitted by coughing, sneezing, or close contact.

“The pandemic (COVID-19) severely disrupted meningitis prevention and control services, with disease surveillance, laboratory confirmation of cases and outbreak investigations all steeply declining.

“Based on reports from countries, the WHO found out that meningitis-controlled activities were reduced by 50 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 with a slight improvement in 2021.

“More than 400 million Africans are still at risk of seasonal meningitis outbreaks, but the disease has remained off the radar for too long.

“Aside from the toll on human life, outbreaks negatively impact health systems, our fragile economies, and impoverish entire populations forced to contend with multiple health and socio-economic challenges,” Moeti said.

What do you think?

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