A and C
is meningitis A and C?
Three major strains of meningococcal bacteria cause meningitis: A, B and C.
Epidemic meningitis occurring in tropical countries is usually caused by group
A strains; cases in Ireland are usually group B. Meningitis is an infection
of the fluid of the spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the brain. Viral
or aseptic meningitis, which is the most common type, is caused by an infection
with one of several types of viruses. Knowing whether meningitis is caused by
a virus or bacterium is important because the severity of illness and the treatment
is meningitis transmitted?
The disease is spread by close contact, including droplets spread in coughs
and sneezes. In countries where meningitis is prevalent, up to 10% of people
may be asymptomatic carriers of the bacteria. Meningitis is caused by Neisseria
meningitidis, a gram-negative bacterium. Serogroup A and C meningococci are
the main causes of epidemic meningitis. Serogroup B, generally associated with
sporadic disease, may cause some upsurges or outbreaks. A small proportion of
those who come into contact with the bacteria develop clinical disease.
are the symptoms of meningitis A and C?
The symptoms of meningitis may not be the same for every person. The symptoms
usually start abruptly and include fever, an intense headache, confusion, sleepiness,
nausea and vomiting; frequently a rash develops. The person may complain of
a stiff neck and be unable to tolerate bright light. These symptoms can develop
over several hours, or they may take one to two days.
what areas of the world do meningitis A and C occur?
Meningitis persists in both the developed and developing world, but every December
marks the start of the six-month meningitis season in a strip of sub-Saharan
Africa known as the "meningitis belt", which extends across Africa just south
of the Sahara desert. The most affected countries have been Nigeria, Burkina
Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
can meningitis A and C infection be prevented?
Most travellers are unlikely to contract meningitis. However, those who are
staying for longer periods or come into close contact with local populations
should consider vaccination. The vaccine protects against the A and C strains
A single dose provides protection for three years,
though small children might need more frequent boosters. Before the 1990s,
Haemophilus influenzae type b was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis,
but new vaccines being given to all children as part of their routine immunisations
have reduced the occurrence of invasive disease due to H. influenzae.
A vaccine to combat the meningococcal C virus has
been introduced to Ireland as of the 3rd October 2000. All children and young
adults are expected to receive this vaccine, so future generations of Irish
farflung travellers will be immunised against the Meningitis C and septicaemia
There is also a vaccine that protects against four
strains of N. meningitidis, but it is not effective in children under 18 months
Overseas travellers should check to see if meningococcal vaccine is recommended
for their destination. Travellers should receive the vaccine at least one week
before departure, if possible.
are meningitis A & C diagnosed?
Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment,
while bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage,
hearing loss, or learning disability. For bacterial meningitis, it is also important
to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics
can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people.
long is the incubation period?
Two to 10 days, often three to four days.
is meningitis A & C treated?
Bacterial meningitis can be treated with a number of effective antibiotics
depending on antibiotic susceptibility: penicillin G, ampicillin; chloramphenicol,
ceftriaxone. Oily chloramphenicol may be the drug of choice in areas with limited
health facilities because a single dose of the long-acting form has been shown
to be effective. Travellers to areas affected by meningococcal outbreaks are
advised to be vaccinated. It is important, however, that treatment be started
early in the course of the disease. Untreated, more than 50% of patients may
contagious is meningitis?
The bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions
(ie. coughing, kissing). Many infected people become symptomless carriers. Climatic
conditions such as dry season or prolonged drought and dust storms contribute
to the spread of meningitis A and C. Fortunately, none of the bacteria that
cause meningitis are as contagious as things like the common cold or the flu,
and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where
a person with meningitis has been.
can I do?
Travellers to areas affected by meningococcal outbreaks are advised to be vaccinated.
As this vaccination is now part of the national immunisation programme, you
are not required to attend a tropical diseases clinic. Your GP can administer
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