Meningitis Strikes Again
MENINGITIS has struck again. The weekly disease surveillance report of the Ministry of Health indicates that at least five deaths were reported during the week ending March 17. This is out of 15 patients suspected with meningitis in the district.
According to a report from the Ministry of Health, laboratory investigations have confirmed the two most deadly types of meningitis. Both types kill quite rapidly.
Initially health investigators detected pneumococcal meningitis, caused by a type of bacteria known as streptococcus pneumoniae. Then last week they confirmed meningiococcal meningitis, caused by Neisseria meningitidis.
Dr Matthew Emer, the Hoima District Director of Health Services, called on people who contract the disease to report for treatment early. "Many of the dead reported to hospital very late," he said.
The Ministry of Health last week dispatched a team of medical workers to Hoima to support those in the district. They are supposed to intensify surveillance, improve the treatment of patients and educate the public about the disease.
The disease surveillance report dated March 17 indicates that a total of 15 districts had meningitis but none of them belonged to the two most feared types. The ministry urged all districts to look out for any suspected cases of meningitis.
What is meningitis? - Meningitis is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain or spinal cord. (The brain and spinal cord are covered by membranes called meninges).
Cause - Bacteria, fungi or viruses. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe. Two types of bacteria, streptococcus pneumoniae and neisseria meningitidis, the most feared causes of meningitis.
Mode of spread - Some types of meningitis are contagious but it is not as easily transmitted as flu. Sneezing, coughing, kissing, sharing water bottles, sharing eating or drinking utensils, or sharing cigarettes can spread the germs from one person to another.
Symptoms - The common symptoms are high fever, headache, stiff neck and fear of bright light. Nausea, vomiting, confusion and sleepiness may also occur. Seizures may follow.
Complications - Severe forms may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disability.
Treatment - A careful choice of antibiotics can cure meningitis if treatment begins early.
Prevention - Immunisation, Certain antibiotics can prevent one who has come into contact with a meningitis patient from falling ill.
Ministry Battles Meningitis
The Ministry of Health has embarked on a massive vaccination exercise against meningitis, which recently killed some people in Ibanda sub-district and left several UPDF soldiers at Bihanga Military barracks bedridden.
Mbarara district director of medical services Dr. Amooti Kaguna said on Saturday that all the soldiers in Bihanga Barracks where the disease was first diagnosed would be vaccinated.
He said residents in the neighbouring areas would be vaccinated as well.
"We can't take any chances because meningitis is a very deadly disease which can infect and kill people in a very short time," Kaguna said.
He said the dry spell and overcrowding in some areas encouraged the spread of the meningitis fever.
Kaguna said the eight UPDF soldiers who were admitted at Mbarara University teaching hospital critically ill with meningitis were improving tremendously.
"They were put in the isolation ward and given all the necessary treatment," he said.
He added,"We are happy that none of them has succumbed to the disease."