The increase in cases of meningitis prompts global health preparedness

Meningitis, a disease that causes inflammation of the meninges, has made a comeback in Brazil and around the world. On national soil, the tenth death from meningococcal disease was recorded in early October in the capital of São Paulo. Dozens of cases also appeared inland and on the coast of São Paulo, as well as in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Bahia and Minas Gerais.

According to the data of the Ministry of Health, until the end of September of this year, 5821 cases and 702 deaths from meningitis of various etiologies were registered in Brazil. The main problem that the file and experts show to explain the progress of the disease is the decline of vaccination, the main way to prevent meningitis, reaching 90% of the most severe forms of the disease.

According to the municipality of Belo Horizonte – through data on childhood meningitis vaccination coverage from the Department of Municipal Health – there has been a decline in vaccination rates in the capital of Minas Gerais, for example.

In 2020, vaccination coverage in Minas Gerais for meningococcal C (conjugate), for example, was 86.43% in children under 1 year of age and 85.67% in children 1 year of age and older. In 2021, on the other hand, coverage dropped to 73.7% among children under one year old and 72.26% among those over one year old.

The goal of the Ministry of Health is to vaccinate 95% of the public indicated to receive the immunizer. The decline in vaccine adherence has put competent bodies on alert, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which, in September last year, published the first global strategy to defeat meningitis.

The “Global Map to Fight Meningitis by 2030” was launched in Geneva by WHO, with the support of international partners. The initiative aims to eliminate outbreaks of bacterial meningitis, the deadliest form of the disease, by 2030, and reduce deaths by 70% in that period. According to the Organization, this strategy could save more than 200,000 lives each year.

Increasing awareness of the importance of vaccines

Health agencies and specialist professionals emphasize that it is necessary to invest in raising awareness of the importance of vaccines, which are available both in the public and private networks.

There are immunizers that protect against all types of bacterial diseases, meningitis A, C, W, Y and type B. The vaccine available in the public network protects against type C of the disease and is offered to the priority public consisting of children under five years of age. years old, 11 and 12 years old and people with concomitant diseases.

In the private network you can find vaccines that, in addition to prevention against all types of disease, are intended for the entire audience, that is, children, teenagers and adults.

The disease can have serious consequences.

Meningitis is a serious illness that can lead to death within 24 hours. It is an inflammation of the meninges – the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

It is necessary to act quickly from the onset of the first symptoms, as the pathology can leave significant consequences, such as amputations, hearing loss and seizures.

According to the Municipal Health Department of São Paulo, the disease can be caused by viruses (viral meningitis), bacteria (bacterial meningitis), fungi (fungal meningitis) and parasites. Groups A, B, C, W and Y account for more than 95% of cases.

In Brazil, the most common meningococci is type C. However, health agencies clarify that, since this is an unpredictable disease, other types, such as W and Y, already registered in the country, are also likely to circulate.

In this sense, it is important to identify the causative agent of meningitis. In addition, since it is an inflammation that affects the structures of the brain, it should be detected as soon as possible.

Symptoms and treatment

The intensity of the signals may vary according to the infectious agent. According to the Virtual Health Library, from the Ministry of Health, meningitis caused by viruses is usually milder and the symptoms are similar to flu and colds.

Signs of the viral form include headache, fever, slightly stiff neck, lack of appetite and irritability. The virus can be transmitted through contact with saliva and respiratory secretions or through contaminated food and water.

On the other hand, bacterial meningitis is more severe and symptoms appear in a short time, including malaise, high fever, vomiting, severe headache and neck pain, difficulty placing the chin on the chest, and red spots on the body. . Transmission occurs through secretions eliminated from the respiratory tract, such as sneezing or coughing.

Treatment of meningitis is based on the causative agent of the infection. In general, the approach should be started as soon as possible, to increase the chances of avoiding the development of lesions that can leave permanent consequences or even lead to death.

There is no treatment to fight the viral strain, which resolves on its own and medication can be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain and fever.

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