I honestly do not qualify to be classified amongst the school lovers back in Junior High School but I always looked forward to my English lessons. This was because my teacher usually spent half of the period telling us stories about his life and I loved stories a lot. The very first time I heard Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) was in his class. He was telling us about how he could not write his Physics Practical paper at Bawku Senior High because of this disease. This made me curious about this disease and I wanted to know why it seemed more prevalent in Northern Ghana.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges. Meninges are protective layers that cover your brain and spinal cord. When a foreign substance such as bacteria or virus, makes its way into the meninges, the immune system reacts by secreting white blood cells to the site, causing inflammation and resulting in CSM.
CSM is quite underrated in Ghana because it is not so popular in the South but it is very deadly. According to a report made by Ghanaian Times on 20th April 2020, at least 409 cases had been recorded in 5 Northern regions with a death toll of 40. It has a 15% fatality rate, way higher than COVID 19, yet so many people have not even heard of it. Probably, many people die from it because they are ignorant of it. The 24th day of April, every year has been set aside as World Meningitis Day. On this day, people try to create more awareness of this disease and teach people how to protect themselves from it.
CSM can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The type caused by viruses and bacteria is acute but the type caused by fungi is chronic. CSM caused by bacteria is the most life-threatening. Some bacteria that cause CSM include Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenza, and Neisseria meningitidis, with the latter being the most common cause in Ghana.
Mode of Transmission
Neisseria meningitidis are bacteria that live in the nose and throat. During the harmattan period, dust winds, cold nights, and common cold combine to damage the nasopharyngeal mucosa, allowing the bacteria to enter the bloodstream to cause the disease. This is probably the reason it is widespread in the North since the weather conditions over there are mostly like this. It is spread via respiratory droplets from affected individuals. The bacteria has an incubation period of between 2 to 10 days and symptoms normally start to show within 4 days. CSM caused by this bacteria has a very high fatality rate if untreated and about 10% of those who survive suffer brain damage. Even when treated and diagnosed early, 1 out of 8 patients die. This shows how dangerous this disease is.
Symptoms include; sudden high fever, stiff neck, severe headache with nausea, difficulty in concentrating, seizures, insomnia, and loss of appetite.
Meningitis is an emergency disease and should be treated in the hospital. It is usually treated with high doses of intravenous penicillin G for 5 to 7 days.
Immunizations are administered to protect people from contracting CSM. Practise very good personal hygiene, wash your hands frequently, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing to avoid spreading the bacteria in case you have it. Avoid things that weaken the immune system like too much alcohol and drugs. Try as much as possible to stay safe.
Meningitis is a medical emergency; prevention and early recognition are key.