The overlooked meningococcal meningitis kills 137 people every day

The disease can cause people to develop complications.


Suleman Saadat September 19, 2011

KARACHI: Worldwide, one person is infected with meningitis every minute and in Pakistan, eight per cent of post-neonatal deaths each year are a result of this infection.

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial illness and a leading cause of bacterial meningitis in infants and children up to 18 years of age. The infection affects the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

On Sunday, the ‘Trust for vaccines and immunisation’ attempted to raise awareness about this infection at a symposium organised at the Pearl Continental Hotel. Experts from different medical institutions were invited to talk about the disease and ongoing research.

Dr Syed Asad Ali from the Pediatrics department at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) spoke about meningitis on a global level while AKUH woman and child health division head Dr Zulfiqar A Bhutta talked about meningitis with a Pakistani perspective.

Research showed that meningitis was common in infants under the age of one, people with certain medical conditions such as the surgical removal of the spleen and young adults between the age of 15 and 19. According to statistics presented on Sunday, nearly 137 people die every day because of meningitis and about 0.5 million people get meningitis every year worldwide.

The research further showed that the 10 to 14 per cent of people who recovered from meningitis, end up developing medical conditions which led them to lose their hearing, body parts or create complications with their nervous systems.

The doctors explained that some people did not catch the disease but became carriers. “It is a contagious disease that spreads by close contact, smoking, coughing and sharing utensils,” they said.

The research showed how students living in dormitories, military recruits, anyone going on a religious pilgrimage or living in a part of the world where the disease was common including Africa were susceptible to the disease. It added that anyone with terminal complement component deficiency (an immune system disorder) and people who might have been exposed to meningitis during an outbreak were at high risk of being infected and were recommended to get vaccinated. For example before travelling to Saudi Arabia, it is necessary to show the health ministry a vaccination certificate.

“Meningococcal meningitis is also a major cause of deaths and disabilities in Pakistan but somehow it is overlooked,” said Dr Ali. “It is spreading like wildfire and the government should take action to spread awareness.” He added that the meningitis vaccination should available at lower costs. Dr Bhutta told The Express Tribune that the only thing they can do is to save the people from meningitis was through spreading awareness, improving laboratories and research along with help from the government.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th,  2011.

COMMENTS (1)

Ali | 10 years ago | Reply

Great! After drone attacks, terrorists, target killing, floods, dengue, corruption we have another thing which is killing Pakistanis.

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