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Editorial: Take The Warning Seriously, It’s A Matter Of Life And Death

People should heed the warning by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services about the outbreak of meningococcal disease in Fiji. It is a life-threatening disease and more dangerous than
21 Mar 2018 13:07
Editorial: Take The Warning Seriously, It’s A Matter Of Life And Death

People should heed the warning by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services about the outbreak of meningococcal disease in Fiji.

It is a life-threatening disease and more dangerous than dengue if we go by the statistics. It has a high death rate.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), without appropriate medical treatment, up to 50 per cent of people who get the disease will die.

Most people who get the disease, and are treated appropriately, will recover fully. However, 10-15 per cent will still die and around 20 per cent will have permanent disabilities, including severe brain damage.

The ministry says in 2017, 14.4 per cent of all people who had meningococcal disease in Fiji died.

To put this in context, the death rate for dengue fever in Fiji is 0.4-0.6 per cent annually, even during outbreaks.

That is why we have to take the warning by the ministry very seriously. We cannot afford to take this warning lightly.

The disease is  caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis.  It can cause infections in the lining of the brain (meningitis) and in the blood (meningococcemia), or both.

The ministry says these conditions are very serious and can be deadly, “but can be treated if detected early.”

There seems to be a tendency that we only go to the GP or the hospital when things become serious.

Let’s be alert, be proactive and minimise the risks by doing the following:

  •  Identify symptoms early and seek urgent medical treatment at a health facility; and
  • It  is critical and will give a person the best chance of

survival.

Meningococcal disease can only be treated at a health facility with antibiotic medication (medicines that kill bacteria in the body) specifically used for this disease. People with meningococcal disease will be admitted to hospital.

Over recent years Fiji has had an increase in cases of meningococcal disease. Prior to 2016, there were 1-10 cases per year reported. In 2016 there were 29 cases and in 2017 there were 48 cases. In 2018, there have been 18 cases as of February 21st.

If we continue at this rate we will have reached 54 cases by June. This will be a phenomenal increase if it happens.

The more common signs and symptoms include:

  •  General poor feeling;
  •  Sudden high fever;
  •  Severe, persistent headache;
  •  Neck stiffness;
  •  Nausea or vomiting;
  •  Discomfort in bright lights;
  •  Drowsiness or difficulty awakening; and
  •  Joint pain.

People spread meningococcal bacteria to other people by sharing respiratory and throat secretions (saliva or spit). Generally, it takes close (for example, coughing or kissing) or lengthy contact to spread these bacteria.

Fortunately, they are not as contagious as germs that cause the common cold or the flu.

Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours – know the symptoms.

The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.

These antibiotics are effective at killing meningococcal bacteria in the throat. They are neither a treatment for meningococcal disease nor do they necessarily prevent anyone from developing the disease.

Our treatment is determined by the cause of your meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is treated with intravenous antibiotics.

There’s no specific antibiotic for bacterial meningitis. It depends on the bacteria involved.

Under these  circumstances, there is no room for complacency because it is a matter of life and death.

 

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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