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Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria meningitis. It is the inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can produce symptoms ranging from fever and headache to deafness, strokes, brain damage or in extreme cases, death.
The causes of meningitis include viruses and bacteria. Meningitis has a high mortality rate and so it is classified as a serious medical emergency. More information on viral meningitis can be found at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Viral Meningitis.
The "African meningitis belt" is an area in sub-Saharan Africa which stretches from Senegal to Ethiopia in which large epidemics of meningococcal disease occur. It contains an estimated total population of 300 million people. The largest outbreak was in 1996, when over 250,000 cases occurred and 25,000 people died as a result of the disease.
Meningococcal disease caused an outbreak in Tanzania, alarmingly deadly as it was able to cross the primate-human barrier. This resulted in an investigation by the Global Welfare Consortium against the Hanso Foundation's Life Extension Project, as a correlation was drawn by the GWC from the outbreak to the Foundation's secretive animal research facility in Zanzibar (where primates where being genetically experimented on). The investigation was discontinued and an apology was issued after Peter Thompson replaced Jacques Maillot as Director-General of the GWC. However, as Rachel Blake noted, this was probably because Thompson is in league with the Hanso Foundation.
~Treatment and Vaccines for Bacterial Meningitis~
Bacterial meningitis is cause by Staphylococcus aureus, Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae, and has similar symptoms of onset as Ben described.
Meningococcal disease is treated by cephlasporins or vancomycins in the United States. Both of these medications must be given in IV form to cross the blood brain barrier and into the Central Nervous System Fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Which drug is given depends on the type of bacteria, as well as the substrain of bacteria.
HOWEVER, certain forms of bacterial meningitis can be prevented by VACCINE, but cannot be treated by such vaccine after infection.
- Haemophilus influenzae meningitis can be prevented by receiving the Hib Vaccine, especially in early childhood.
- Neisseria meningitidis is the most common form of meningococcal disease. There is also now a vaccine covering four strains of the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria, thus also highly decreasing and preventing that form of bacterial meningitis. For the B strain, which is much harder to produce for use in vaccine, there are a few available being MeNZB in New Zealand and MenBVAC in Norway.
- In the US, this vaccine is marketed with the trade names: Menactra and Menommune, produced by the Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in Swiftwater, PA (Physicians' Desk Reference, 2007). There is a common misconception with Menommune, which may explain the multiple doses. Menommune has been shown to only provide a passive protection in most cases against meningococci. Some immunologists and physicians believed multiple vaccination to solve this problem, by amping up the amount of memory based T-cell antibodies to fight off the infection. However, multiple vaccinations has a somewhat opposite effect, causing a further dented but not completely gone passive protection. Menactra is made by the same company that produced menommune, and has been improved with greater coverage. Menactra can be given to pregnant women. Typically in the US, college students receive a vaccination for this type of bacteria, colloquially known as the "meningitis vaccine".
- Streptococcus pneumoniae also has a vaccine available, typically for those 65 and older in the US as well as brand new babies, but also is showing signs of preventing strep pneumoniae meningitis. It is called Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine or the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (Physicians' Desk Reference, 2007). More information on Bacterial Meningococcal Disease and the vaccines available in the United States for Meningococcal Disease can be found at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.