World Meningitis Day is marked on 24th April each year. The theme this year is #AllMeningitisMatters. The aim is to raise awareness of the 4 different types of meningitis: bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic.
Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain- the meninges. It affects more than 2.8 million people globally each year. According to WHO data published in 2014, meningitis deaths in Kenya reached 8,708.
There are vaccines available to protect against the most common causes of bacterial and viral meningitis.
Earlier this year, WHO announced a new hyper-invasive strain of meningitis which has begun spreading across Africa. The strain is already circulating in the African meningitis belt – an area running from Senegal to Ethiopia. The northern part of Kenya including areas of Turkana, Pokot, Laisamis, Marsabit, Moyale, Chalbi, Wajir North and Mandera have the highest risk of a meningitis epidemic. The threat of an epidemic with this new strain is high and comes at a time when vaccines are in short supply.
Not all strains of meningitis are vaccine preventable. It is important therefore to recognize the symptoms. The most common are fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, rash, vomiting, sensitivity to light or drowsiness. Individuals are urged to seek medical attention immediately if they suspect that they or their loved ones could have meningitis.