PH urged to join fight to stop meningitisBy Charles E. Buban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Chilling. That’s the best word to describe what some experts are saying about the economic and social upheaval that a disease outbreak could cause. Baguio City is no stranger to this fact when the bustling tourist destination was turned into a virtual ghost town during the last quarter of 2004 after the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center reported to have admitted patients daily due to meningococcemia-like symptoms.
The following year, meningococcemia becomes a full-blown scare and a damper on city tourism. Apparently, the little knowledge or public information that the people had about meningococcemia then, caused tourists to stay away.
“Educating the public is one way to prevent the spread of meningococcemia and at the same time address the panic in the community,” stressed Philippine Foundation for Vaccination executive director Dr. Lulu Bravo as she led the World Meningitis Day observance in the summer capital on April 24.
Lead local gov’t
Baguio City was chosen as the lead local government for its success in managing meningococcemia, a life-threatening bloodstream infection caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria (the same one that causes acute inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord or meningitis).
Each year, more than one million people worldwide will suffer bacterial meningitis, causing around 170,000 deaths. In the Philippines, only one in one million will develop meningococcemia and the number is expected to cluster in areas where the disease is raging.
Meningococcemia frequently lives in a person’s upper respiratory tract without causing visible signs of illness. However, the bacteria could be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets—for example, one may become infected if the person is around someone with the condition when they sneeze or cough (although close and prolonged contact—sharing of utensils with, drinking glasses used by and kissing an infected person—is necessary for transmission to take place).
According to Dr. May Montellano of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases of the Philippines Inc. (Pidpi), the World Meningitis Day seeks to reduce the impact of the disease. “The campaign encourages individuals, families and communities to learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis, the need to urgently treat the disease, and the fact that prevention is available through vaccination against some forms of meningitis,” she said.
Meningococcemia is not easy to recognize and is often mistaken for a bad case of the flu so family members should always suspect for the worse if one member exhibits the following symptoms: anxiety, fever, headache, irritability, muscle pain, nausea, presence of rash with red or purple spots.
If not properly detected and addressed, the individual will soon develop large areas of bleeding under the skin, drop in blood pressure and circulatory shock that could soon lead to death. Though relatively rare, the bacterial disease can be fatal within 48 hours of developing.
Survivors may suffer from deafness and other neurologic impairment, as well as impaired circulation leading to gangrene and amputation of limbs.
During the April 24 free antimeningitis and antimeningococcemia vaccination activity involving more than 500 children and elderly in Baguio City, Montellano reminded Filipinos not to miss once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like the free vaccination considering this usually cost between P1,500 and P5,000 in clinics and hospitals.
The vaccines given include the meningococcemia quadrivalent conjugate vaccine MCV4-D (Menactra), which is administered to help one fight against invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, Y and W-135.
Experts said a vaccine that covers some of the strains of meningococcus is better than receiving none and those unvaccinated students or workers living in dormitories should also consider receiving this vaccine.
“It is important that Filipinos just be aware of it because people do die from it. Once we’ve all been vaccinated against meningococcal infection, then we could get on with our life,” Bravo said.
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