On Thursday, April 24, 2014, the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations (CoMO) joins with 43 member organizations and 28 nations across the world to bring attention to Meningitis via World Meningitis Day. Because Meningitis can affect anyone at any place and at any time, more attention and awareness of prevention, treatment, and control of this serious disease is needed.
What is World Meningitis Day?
World Meningitis Day has been celebrated since 2008. Although Meningitis is a serious and sometimes deadly disease, many people do not realize that there are vaccinations that can prevent the illness. Around the world, people come together on April 24 to spread a message of awareness, information about prevention, and the consequences of infection. In addition to in-person events, online venues including social networks, video sharing websites and idea boards will promote the event and public awareness of this global health concern.
Know the Facts about Meningitis
Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. There are five types of meningitis: viral, bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and non-infectious. The most common causes of meningitis are bacterial and viral infections.
- The most common forms of meningitis are vaccine preventable.
- In the United States, an estimated 4,100 cases and 500 deaths occurred each year from 2003 through 2007 due to bacterial meningitis, which is the most severe form of the disease.
- With prompt and appropriate treatment, the death rate for bacterial meningitis can be lowered to 15%.
- Viral meningitis may result from common viral illnesses such as enteroviruses, influenza, measles, mumps, chicken pox, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes virus, herpes simplex viruses and arboviruses.
- Bacterial meningitis is the only contagious form of meningitis.
- Fungal meningitis most often occurs after a person has disturbed the soil in an area where bird, bat or rodent droppings are prevalent.
- Parasitic meningitis, which is typically caused by infection with the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, is rare but almost always results in death.
Are You Vaccinated Against Meningitis?
There are vaccines for some types of bacterial meningitis. People who fall into at-risk groups should see a health specialist immediately to make sure they are vaccinated. The high-risk groups for contracting any type of meningitis include:
- Military personnel
- College students living in dormitories
- Infants and young children
- People with weakened immune systems
- Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East
- People who swim in warm bodies of fresh water
- Sinus rinsing or lavage
The best way to prevent meningitis is to complete the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule that includes vaccination against this disease.
In addition to getting the Meningitis vaccine, individuals can also take other actions to reduce their risk of meningitis. Regular hand washing, disinfecting surfaces such as doorknobs and remote controls, avoiding close personal contact with people who seem sick, and controlling insect and rodent populations around the home are also important in reducing the risk of illness. If you are considering traveling to an area where Meningitis is prevalent, you should schedule a pre-travel health consultation to make sure you have proper immunizations, medications, and guidance for packing the right travel supplies to stay as healthy as possible.