April 24th is World Meningitis Day, and I promised to help out a little by putting a few words and links here.
One reason I’m glad my children are rarely very sick, and that I always get a little antsy any time one of them does spike a fever, is that the spectre of meningitis is always there. I don’t even have any close personal experience with it, thankfully, but for some reason I’ve never forgotten the advice about rolling a glass over a rash to see if the spots disappear, and whenever anyone looks like they might have a stiff neck, my hackles rise just a tiny bit.
Maybe I watched too many episodes of ER in my young adulthood, or too many episodes of House in my young parenthood, but these things stuck in my mind. On the other hand, maybe it was knowledge picked up from awareness campaigns like this one, aiming to make parents remember that this horrible, sudden-striking, disease has not gone away.
In Ireland and the UK, the most vulnerable group of people are babies and young children. In the US, the main at-risk group is teenagers, and a vaccine is recommended for all 11-18 year olds. (My pediatrician’s office gives it at 11, with a booster later on.) But even the vaccine does not protect against all forms of meningitis.
No matter where you are in the world, it does no harm to be aware of the symptoms for all age groups, because catching this early can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Symptoms of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia
- Very sleepy
- Non-blanching rash (doesn’t disappear under pressure)
- Severe headache
- Painfully stiff neck
- Sensitivity to light
Ireland has the highest incidence of meningococcal disease (the main cause of bacterial meningitis) in Europe, with over twice the average disease rate. Irish children are currently not protected against all types of meningitis, so it’s important that parents keep watching for the signs and symptoms.
And this is a video for the “Keep Watching Ireland” campaign.