As a mother, my most natural instinct is to nurture and protect my little Rajveer against anything and everything. But sometimes to protect him I have to endure some pain, the pain of seeing him being vaccinated. At each of his vaccination appointments for the last eight months, my heart has repeatedly been torn apart at his little cries, but I’m strong enough to endure it for his healthy growth and development.
Rajveer is due for his next vaccination; the MMR vaccine in two weeks, as per the immunisation schedule set by Government of India. The MMR vaccine is a crucial vaccine in the immunisation calendar, which protects children against three diseases namely measles, mumps, and rubella. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) recommends the MMR vaccine in two doses, starting with the first dose at 9 months of age, and the second dose at 4 years of age. As I booked the next appointment for Rajveer, his paediatrician recommended the Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine, the first vaccine approved for primary and booster vaccination for meningococcal or bacterial meningitis.
As I wasn’t aware of meningitis, I asked quite a few questions about the condition and the vaccination. The first thing that shocked me about meningitis is that it is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and the spinal cord.
The conversation left me wondering, and so I spoke to a few healthcare professionals and decided to share some relevant information, and arm parents to make informed decisions about the vaccination.
About the Disease
Meningitis is either a bacterial or viral infection, which may seem pretty straightforward, however, in spite of significant medical advancement, the infection is difficult to detect. Though viral meningitis is usually mild and often clears by itself without the need for medical intervention, it is bacterial meningitis which is riskier and worsens within hours causing long term disabilities and sometimes death.
The condition does not affect any particular person, it can affect anyone of any age, at any time and at any place. However, children below the age of 2 years are most at risk.
The symptoms are similar to that of flu; like high temperature, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. But, if these symptoms are accompanied by severe headaches, discomfort in bright lights, joint pain, and a stiff neck; a diagnosis is imperative.
The condition is most commonly diagnosed by a blood test, an X-ray or a CT scan to gauge the severity, however, in some cases, a spinal tap or lumbar puncture is done to check the cerebrospinal fluid for the Neisseria bacteria.
If detected, the condition is treated immediately with multiple intravenous antibiotics and sometimes corticosteroids to help reduce the risk of complications, like brain swelling and seizures until the exact cause of meningitis is diagnosed. Once the cause is determined, a pre-set line of treatment is followed.
Since the root cause of meningitis is a viral or bacterial infection, practising good hygiene and care is the first step to prevention. Another crucial step is immunisation, which ensures inoculation against various types of acute bacterial meningitis. In India, the meningococcal conjugate vaccine ‘Menactra by Sanofi Pasteur’ is advised to be administered first at 9 months and next at 2 years. Menactra protects against three types of acute bacterial meningitis, ensuring protection and prevention at the same time.
Most parents may say, oh, it’s just another vaccine, but here are some fast facts about Meningitis that will help make your decision:
- Children and adults are both likely to develop bacterial meningitis
- 1 in 5 cases of bacterial meningitis end with serious complications
- Bacterial meningitis causes around 170,000 deaths globally every year
- In spite of prompt diagnosis and treatment, 10% of patients die within 24-48 hours
- Even after treatment, survivors live with permanent damage and need ongoing treatment
- Most people have no knowledge about the condition, the causes, symptoms, and the prevention
Knowing about meningitis helped me be a proactive parent who won’t take the tiniest risk. You too can be that parent, the one who makes an informed choice between life, death and life-long disability.
Stay Healthy, Stay Happy
Author: Heena Shah