Archive | Meningitis

Preparing Your Kids for Immunization in Advance

Immunizations also called vaccines are drugs used to prevent certain forms of diseases and infections, as defined by Kids Health.org, a website supported by the National Institutes of Health. Immunizations are usually given during the early years of childhood, some infants as young as a few days old are already given vaccines in some parts of the world. Most vaccines are made using a very small and controlled amount of the bacteria that it targets. This weakened microorganism stimulates the body to form antigens and antibodies for specific for that disease. Commonly, vaccines are injected into the body, but some are taken orally. Vaccines are also given at pre-determined doses and schedules, a few are just given once, but most of them are given more than 2 times.

Vaccines do not guarantee 100% protection and disease prevention. Many factors contribute to this. A person may not form enough antibodies against the bacteria or his system might not react to the immunization given.  Some of the diseases that already have vaccines and immunizations include the Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Measles, Chicken Pox, Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Mumps, Tetanus and Rabies. Newborn babies are temporarily immune to diseases because of the antibodies they get from the placenta and breast milk but as they grow older, this immunity fades away. The American Academy of Pediatricians or AAP has a recommended vaccination schedule for children who belong to different age groups.

1)      Hepatitis B Vaccine – Given to prevent Hepatitis B infection in the liver which can potentially lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer. This vaccine is given in 3 doses. The first dose can be given as early as 12 hours after birth. The second dose is introduced 1 to 2 months after the first and the third dose will follow after 6 to 18 months after. The immunity this vaccine provides is long term and can last up to adulthood.

2)     Pneumococcal Vaccine – Immunization against pneumonia, bacterial meningitis and blood infections. Pneumococcal Vaccine or PCV is given in 4 doses. The first dose is given when the baby is 2 months old. The second dose is given during the fourth month. The third dose follows at the sixth month and the last one is given at the twelfth month. After giving the vaccine, the child might experience a slight fever and soreness in the injection site.

3)     DTaP – The DTaP vaccine provides immunity for 3 diseases namely diphtheria, a serious throat infection, tetanus, a nerve disease and pertussis or whooping cough. DTaP is given in 5 doses. Usually introduces at the 2nd month, 4th month, 6th month, 15th month and 6th to 8th year of life respectively. Booster doses needs to be given for tetanus every 10 years.

4)     Inactivated Polio Virus or (IPV) – The IPV vaccine provides immunity for poliomyelitis, a debilitating viral infection. Usually given at the 2nd, 4th, 6th month and during ages 4 to 6. IPV vaccine is one of the few vaccines that can be given orally. The IPV vaccine provides permanent protection against polio.

Posted in Flu, Measles, Medical Care, Meningitis, Mumps1 Comment

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi.  The bacteria is spread by black-legged, weatern black-legged, or deer ticks.

Ticks acquire the bacteria from mice before passing it to humans by biting.  The bacteria enters the human bloodstream and causes the infection.  These ticks can be hard to detect; immature ticks are about the size of a poppy seed, while adults may be as large as a sesame seed.

Children who spend a lot of time outdoors or in wooded areas are most susceptible to developing Lyme disease.  Ticks hide in shrubs, long grass, and forested areas. 

Lyme disease is curable when caught early.  Most infected people will develop what is known as “the bullseye rash”; a distinct, circular rash that allows doctors to diagnose Lyme disease on sight.  Occasionally, a person will not develop the rash; in that case, bloodwork will be used to diagnose the illness.

Lyme disease occurs in three stages.  Ideally, diagnosis and treatment should occur in the first stage for it to be most effective.  It may take a week to a month for your child to develop some or all of these symptoms after being bitten by an infected tick:

  • swelling of the lymph glands near the bite
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • joint pain
  • an overall achy feeling
  • chills

Once Lyme disease progresses to the second stage, it can cause some alarming symptoms, such as:

  • two or more areas of rash not at the site of the bite
  • severe headache
  • tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • enlarged lymph nodes (glands)
  • joint stiffness, especially in the neck
  • severe fatigue
  • sensitivity to light
  • facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy)
  • irregular heart rhythm
  • fever of 100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (37.78 to 38.89 degrees Celsius)
  • meningitis

At this point, the illness is quite severe.  If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, they need to be seen by a doctor right away.

Lyme disease that goes undiagnosed can lead to arthritis and cognitive deterioration.

If you suspect that your child has been bitten by a tick, take them to the doctor for bloodwork.  Not everyone shows symptoms.

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Newborn Hearing Screening

The negative effects of hearing impairment such as impaired speech, social, and emotional skills can be minimized if the problem is identified early, and if appropriate intervention programs are introduced.  It is very important that your child be tested for hearing loss as early in life as possible; preferably no later than six months of age.
 Newborn hearing loss is one of the most common congenital anomalies, occurring in between two to four of every one thousand babies.  There are certain risk factors that can alert doctors to possible hearing impairment, but about half of the infants identified as having hearing loss exhibit no signs of increased risk.  That’s why it is vital to have your newborn tested. 

The screening process used to test newborns for hearing loss is totally safe, but it cannot always identify a newborn who is hearing impaired.  In fact, the test misses almost 50% of all children with hearing loss.  Therefore, it is important to also pay attention to risk factors. 

These include: 
·       Some postnatal infections including meningitis
·       Head trauma
·       Parental or caregiver concerns about delays in development of hearing, speech, or language
·       A family history of permanent childhood hearing loss
·       Certain disorders and syndromes (ask your doctor for more information)
If a child is identified as having hearing loss at or before six months of age, and an intervention program is implemented, the child will likely be able to develop normal speech and language, just like his or her peers. It’s important to identify children with hearing loss as early in life as possible. 
If your child is identified as having hearing loss, discuss treatment options with your doctor.  Your child, if treated properly, will develop normally.  Technology and knowledge in this area is quite developed – children under the age of three months can be fitted with, as well as benefit from, hearing and amplification aids. 

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Meningitis Prevention

Meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, and involves an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. Some of the more common symptoms of meningitis include fever, lethargy (decreased consciousness), irritability, headaches, photophobia (eye sensitivity to light), and a stiff neck. The inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacterial infections and viral infections, and also by some species of fungi, protozoa, and other parasites.

The vast majority of meningitis cases result from infections that are themselves contagious. Many of the bacteria and viruses that are responsible for meningitis are fairly common. Good personal hygiene is an important means of preventing any infection. Encourage your family members to wash their hands thoroughly and often, particularly before eating and after using the bathroom. Avoiding close contact with someone who is ill and not sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils can help halt the spread of germs as well.

There is no single vaccine to protect against all forms of meningitis. However, there are a wide range of vaccines that protect against various forms of the disease.

Some forms of Viral Meningitis are caused by infection with measles, polio, chickenpox, or mumps, and these forms of meningitis can be prevented by being vaccinated against these diseases. Once successfully vaccinated, your body will be able to fight off the virus that causes these diseases, thereby protecting you from the disease and also from the viral forms of disease that can cause meningitis.

A range of new vaccines are available which are highly effective against Hib meningitis, most cases of Pneumococcal Meningitis, and Meningococcal bacteria type C which causes one form of Meningococcal Meningitis.

Hib was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under 5 years of age before its vaccines were introduced. These Hib vaccines include ActHIB, HibTITTER, and PedvaxHIB, and all may be given simultaneously with other vaccines. Hib vaccination should be performed 4 times for each child – at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months of age.

Another vaccine, the menomune vaccine, is effective against Meningococcal bacteria types A, B, C, W135 and Y, but does not protect against type B of this bacteria. This vaccine is recommended for people who live in crowded buildings, such as students living in residential halls on campus.

The prevnar vaccine protects against 7 out of the 80 most common strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae that occur in neonates and infants. Those 7 are accountable for 86% of pneumococcal infections in infants. Vaccination with the prevnar vaccine should be performed 4 times for each child – at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months of age.

The pneumovax vaccine usually protects against pneumococcal forms of meningitis within 2-3 weeks of vaccination. This is a polysaccharide vaccine which is given to adults over 65 years old who suffer from sickle cell disease, HIV infection, or another conditions.

If you or your child has had contact with someone who has or recently developed meningitis (for example, in a child-care centre or a college dorm), then seek professional medical advice and start appropriate preventive medication and treatment immediately.

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Meningitis Diagnosis and Treatment

Meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, and involves an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. Some of the more common symptoms of meningitis include fever, lethargy (decreased consciousness), irritability, headaches, photophobia (eye sensitivity to light), and a stiff neck. The inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacterial infections and viral infections, and also by some species of fungi, protozoa, and other parasites. The vast majority of meningitis cases result from infections that are themselves contagious. Many of the bacteria and viruses that are responsible for meningitis are fairly common. Good personal hygiene is an important means of preventing any infection. In addition, a range of vaccines are now available that protect against various forms of the disease.

To diagnose the cause of illness, a doctor will perform a physical examination of the patient, but, if meningitis is suspected, then laboratory tests will be conducted to make an accurate diagnosis of the exact cause of the disease so that appropriate treatment can be started as soon as possible.

The laboratory tests may include a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to collect a sample of spinal fluid, which will be examined for signs of inflammation and cultured for the organism(s) that may be causing the infection.

If a child is suspected to have meningitis, then urgent diagnosis is required, and, if the diagnosis is confirmed, urgent treatment must follow. The sooner they are diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance that they will make a full recovery.

It is very important to begin the fight against meningitis, particularly bacterial meningitis, very quickly. If a child is diagnosed with (or strongly suspected to have) bacterial meningitis, doctors will start intravenous antibiotics straight away, even before the laboratory test results have been received back or the exact micro-organism causing the infection has been pinpointed. The disease is so serious, that no delay in treatment can be allowed.

Once the infectious agent has been identified by laboratory tests, then the antibiotics can be changed to something more appropriate to the particular bacteria involved, or even discontinued if the patient turns out to have viral or some other form of meningitis.

Children with bacterial meningitis will almost certainly be hospitalised so that they can be closely monitored around the clock by hospital staff. While in the hospital, the child will continue to receive antibiotics and may require intensive-care treatment. The child will also receive fluids to replace those lost to fever, sweating, vomiting, and poor appetite, and may be given corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation of the meninges.

The complications caused bacterial meningitis may require additional treatments. For example, anticonvulsants can be given for seizures. If the child develops shock or low blood pressure, then additional intravenous fluids and certain medications can be given to increase blood pressure. Some children may need supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation if they have difficulty breathing.

A child who has viral meningitis may also be hospitalised, although less serious cases may be allowed to recover at home provided they are closely monitored by their parents. With the exception of medication for the herpes simplex virus, there are no medications to fight viral meningitis, so treatment is usually aimed at relieving the child’s symptoms. This includes getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) to relieve fever and headache. If the condition of a child recovering at home deteriorates, then they should be rushed to hospital straight away. Recovery from viral meningitis is normally complete, but headaches, tiredness, and depression may persist for weeks or even months.

Some patients who have had meningitis may require longer-term follow-up treatments. For example, one of the most common problems resulting from bacterial meningitis is impaired hearing, and children who have had bacterial meningitis should have a hearing test following their recovery.

Fungal meningitis requires anti-fungal therapy and appropriate management.

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Meningitis Transmission

Meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, and involves an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. This inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacterial infections and viral infections, and also by some species of fungi, protozoa, and other parasites. Some of the more common symptoms of meningitis include fever, lethargy (decreased consciousness), irritability, headaches, photophobia (eye sensitivity to light), and a stiff neck.

The vast majority of meningitis cases are caused by infectious agents that are contagious. Many of the bacteria and viruses that are responsible for meningitis are fairly common. Good personal hygiene is an important means of preventing any infection. In addition, a range of vaccines are now available that protect against various forms of the disease.

The infectious agents (such as bacteria or viruses) are usually spread between people who are in close contact, such as those who live together, or people who are exposed by kissing or sharing eating utensils or drinking glasses.

These infectious agents are usually spread inside tiny drops of fluid that are expelled from the throat or nose of someone who is infected, for example, when they cough, sneeze, laugh, or talk.

Once airborne, these drops of fluid can enter the body of another person and cause them to be infected with the common infection caused by that germ, or, less likely, meningitis.

However, the infectious agent may also be spread by direct contact, for example by touching the hand of an infected person who has just coughed into it, and later touching your own mouth or eye with that hand.

Infectious agents can also spread via a person’s stool, and someone who comes in contact with this – such as a child in day care – may contract the infection.

Casual contact at school or work with someone who has one of these infections usually will not transmit the infectious agents of meningitis, but this can be enough to spread other infectious agents.

People with viral meningitis usually remain contagious while they have symptoms of meningitis. People who have bacterial meningitis can be contagious for about 24 hours after they begin taking antibiotics.

One of the most common causes of meningitis is the meningococcal bacterium which has five main groups – A, B, C, W135 and Y. These bacteria are very common and are found in the back of the nose, throat, and the upper respiratory tract of many people without causing them any ill effects. In fact, being a carrier of these bacteria helps to boost natural immunity. It is possible that 10 to 25 per cent of the population are carriers of meningococcal bacteria, and only rarely do the bacteria overcome the body’s defences and cause meningitis. The meningococcal bacterium cannot live outside the body for long, so they cannot be picked up from water supplies or swimming pools. The incubation period for meningococcal bacterium is between two and ten days.

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Meningitis Symptoms and Complications

Meningitis is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease, and involves an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges. This inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacterial infections and viral infections, and also by some species of fungi, protozoa, and other parasites. The vast majority of meningitis cases result from infections that are themselves contagious. Many of the bacteria and viruses that are responsible for meningitis are fairly common. Good personal hygiene is an important means of preventing any infection. In addition, a range of vaccines are now available that protect against various forms of the disease.

Some of the more common symptoms of meningitis include fever, lethargy (decreased consciousness), irritability, headaches, photophobia (eye sensitivity to light), and a stiff neck.

Meningitis can also cause or lead to skin rashes. The rashes caused by bacterial meningitis look different to those caused by viral meningitis. Meningitis may also cause seizures.

Newborns and infants with meningitis may lack most or all of the common symptoms and may simply be irritable or lethargic.

Normally, infants who are not feeling well will be comforted when their mother picks them up. However, a baby with meningitis may become more distressed when their mother picks them up, a condition known as paradoxical irritability.

Other symptoms of meningitis in infants can include:
• jaundice (a yellowish tint to the skin),
• a stiffness of the body and neck (neck rigidity),
• a mild fever,
• a lower-than-normal temperature,
• poor feeding and a weak suck, and,
• a higher-pitched cry.

Parents may also notice bulging fontanelles on their baby’s head caused by welling of the brain as a result of the meningitis. (Fontanelles are the soft spot at the top/front of the baby’s skull, where the bones of the skull join. In babies these bones have not yet fused.)

However, the possible symptoms displayed by someone suffering from meningitis can vary greatly, and depend on the age of the child and on the factor(s) which are causing the infection(s).

The symptoms of viral meningitis are usually milder than those of bacterial meningitis, even though both types of meningitis can cause similar symptoms during the early stages of the disease. As a result, prompt and accurate identification of the infectious agent is crucial to the effective meningitis treatment.

The initial symptoms of meningitis may appear several days after a child has had a cold and runny nose, stomach ache, headache, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, or any other signs of a bacterial or viral infection.

Bacterial meningitis is not common, and it can be extremely dangerous. About 10% of cases are fatal, and about 15% of those people who survive are left with a serious disability, such as deafness or brain damage.

Meningococcal meningitis is caused by meningococcal bacteria, which can cause either meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) or both, making this form of meningitis particularly serious. In fact, septicaemia can be more life threatening than meningitis and can also be caused by a range of other germs. Septicaemia is a medical emergency that requires urgent treatment with strong antibiotics.

Other forms of meningitis can be less dangerous, but all are serious and require professional medical advice and proper treatment.

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Meningitis At a Glance …

 Meningitis is serious condition that involves an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, called the meninges.
 Meningitis may be caused by bacterial or viral infection, and by some species of fungi, protozoa, and other parasites.
 The most common symptoms include : fever, lethargy, irritability, headaches, photophobia (eye sensitivity to light), and a stiff neck, but there can be a range of other symptoms as well.
 Newborns and infants with meningitis may not show all of these common symptoms. Instead they may simply be extremely irritable or lethargic.
 If you suspect that you or your child has Meningitis seek immediate professional medical advice.

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