Meningitis, A Disease With Many Names, Many Faces

Collectively, meningitis is known as the inflammation of the meninges, the covering of the brain and spinal cord.

There are 5 broad types of meningitis:

  1. Bacterial
    2. Viral
    3. Fungal
    4. Parasitic
    5. Non-infectious

Among these, bacterial and viral meningitis cause a majority of cases worldwide.

All the different types of meningitis bear grave similarities:

• Everyone is at risk of infection.
• It is difficult to diagnose.
• Can manifest suddenly.
• Progress to potentially life-threatening complications can occur at a rapid pace.
• Death can occur within hours.

The severity of meningitis varies greatly. The treatment also differs depending on the cause.

Thankfully we have vaccines to prevent against the most deadly forms of bacterial meningitis infection. In Malaysia, there are currently three vaccines available: the Haemophilus influenzae B vaccine, meningococcal vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine. All of three vaccines are available to children above the age of 2, and are all given in a single dose.

The Haemophilus influenzae B vaccine is given as part of the Malaysian National Immunsation Programme (NIP) while the other two vaccines are recommended as additional vaccines and available at private hospitals and clinics. The meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines may not be part of the NIP but are still important to protecting you and those you love.

It is important to know the many manifestations of meningitis and this article will give you a better understanding of bacterial and viral meningitis. In addition, it is as important for you to understand each vaccine to understand why they are important to protect you and your loved ones from meningitis, a disease that can come in many forms and cause an array of life-threatening complications.