Vaccinating Against Meningitis

Meningitis is a worrisome and deadly complication of many viral, bacterial, and fungal infections. Sometimes the condition, an inflammation in the membranes around the brain, clears up on its own, but two often id is a serious emergency that will kill if not treated promptly. There are vaccinations against the most common form of the disease, called meningitis B as well as the meningitis C form. The current meningitis B vaccine prevents almost three-fourths of strains of the bacterium that causes the condition subtype. A newer type, still being developed and tested will focus on the molecule meningitis B uses to attach itself to the people it infects and without which it cannot do its dirty work.

There is also a vaccine for meningitis A, which is mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, a mass vaccination program in parts the area reduced the incidence of meningitis by 94 percent, and of meningitis A in particular by 100 percent—the places where the program operated had no instances of meningitis A in all of 2012. These successful efforts involved only a single vaccination for 1.8 million people. This brief interaction was sufficient to produce dramatic results.

Meningitis is an infectious disease. That means that while vaccinations are important, normal infection precautions are also a big part of preventing its spread. That means careful and frequent hand-washing, before handling food, after riding public transportation or coming in from outside, and after using the bathroom. It also means covering one’s mouth when couching or sneezing, and maintaining good overall hygiene and not sharing toothbrushes or similar items. Pregnant women should also avoid undercooked meat and unpasteurized cheese.

If you or a family member has symptoms of meningitis, it’s important to get medical attention immediately; prompt treatment can save lives. Symptoms to look for include poor appetite confusion and poor concentration, a fever that comes all of a sudden, a severe headache with nausea, seizures, light sensitivity, excessive sleepiness, and a stiff neck. If you notice these symptoms, contact a health care professional right away.

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