SOURCE: Confederation of Meningitis Organisations

Confederation of Meningitis Organisations

April 20, 2010 19:00 ET

Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) to Commemorate Second Annual World Meningitis Day

CoMO Issues Global Call-to-Action for Citizens to "Join Hands" Against Meningitis

PERTH, AUSTRALIA--(Marketwire - April 20, 2010) -  The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) has designated Saturday, 24 April 2010, as the second annual World Meningitis Day, in order to raise global awareness of this widespread and often devastating condition, help prevent future meningitis cases and improve support for those dealing with meningitis-related after-effects.

Meningitis is a potentially fatal inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi1a, 2a, 2b. While viral meningitis is generally a mild condition, bacterial meningitis can be life-threatening, even in previously healthy individuals, and can also be associated with septicaemia, a serious infection of the bloodstream1a, 3a, 3b, 4, 5a.

Survivors of meningitis and septicaemia can be left with life-long disabilities including brain damage, limb loss, blindness, and deafness5b. Although people of all ages can get meningitis, infants, children, and adolescents are at an increased risk1b.

"Despite the availability of proven vaccines, meningitis and septicaemia unnecessarily kill and maim thousands of people around the world every year6," said CoMO president Bruce Langoulant. "For survivors and their families, the effects can be devastating. In today's world, this is totally unacceptable. It is vital that everyone has access to available vaccines, information on the signs and symptoms of the disease and, for those who have been affected, that they and their families receive quality care and support."

CoMO calls on people worldwide to "join hands" virtually to show their support for meningitis awareness and prevention, and display solidarity with those affected by the condition. To join hands, please visit http://www.comoonline.org/JoiningHands.aspx.

"Meningitis is a particularly frightening condition because certain forms of it can lead to death within hours of the first symptoms, which are non-specific and closely resemble the flu7a, 8a," said Lulu Bravo, M.D., CoMO Governing Council member and Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination.  "By continuing to educate the public and medical community about meningitis, its symptoms and best methods of treatment and prevention, we will help save countless lives."

A number of vaccines have been licensed around the world to help prevent meningitis caused by meningococcal, pneumococcal, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria7b, 9, 10. CoMO supports the use of all safe and effective vaccines as a means of reducing meningitis-related morbidity and mortality.

Thirteen CoMO members in ten countries around the globe are recognizing World Meningitis Day by raising awareness in the media, online, and in their local communities through events and fundraisers. To learn more about activities near you, please check for a CoMO member in your country by visiting http://www.comoonline.org/como_members.html.

About CoMO
Founded in September 2004, the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) is committed to the global elimination of meningitis and septicaemia. CoMO's mission is to assist member organisations to be sustainable, identifiable and influential sources for information and support services for those people affected by meningitis in their regions and to unite members in their endeavors globally through their membership in CoMO. CoMO works to facilitate resource and knowledge sharing between member organizations, and helps establish patient groups in countries where they do not exist. CoMO currently has 29 members in 20 countries.

About Meningitis and Septicaemia
Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord2a. Symptoms, which often resemble the flu, typically include high fever, severe headache, vomiting or nausea, confusion/difficulty concentrating, seizures, sleepiness or difficulty waking up, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, lack of interest in drinking and eating, and skin rash8a, 8b. Meningitis can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi2b. While most cases of meningitis are caused by viral infection, these cases are usually mild3a. In contrast, meningitis caused by infection with bacteria -- most commonly Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), Neisseria meningitides (meningococcus), or Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) -- is a medical emergency and can lead to death or permanent side effects in survivors, such as brain damage, learning disabilities and hearing loss3b, 5b. Meningococcal bacteria can also infect the bloodstream, causing potentially a fatal condition known as septicaemia which can lead to limb loss5a, 5b.

References:

  1. Schaffner, W. et al. The Changing Epidemiology of Meningococcal Disease Among US Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. November 2004. Available at: http://www.nfid.org/pdf/meningitis/FINALChanging_Epidemiology_of_Meningococcal
    _Disease.pdf
    . Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  2. World Health Organization. Meningitis. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/meningitis/en. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meningitis: Questions & Answers. June 2009 update. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/about/faq.html. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  4. Pollard, A. J. and Maiden, C.J. (Eds.) (2001). Meningococcal Disease: Methods and Protocols. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, Inc.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book: Course Textbook). 10th Edition, 2nd printing. February 2008 update. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/default.htm. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  6. World Health Organization. Meningococcal Position Paper. Weekly Epidemiological Record No. 44, 2002, 77, 329-340. Available at: http://www.who.int/immunization/wer7740meningococcal_Oct02_position_paper.pdf. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  7. World Health Organization. Meningococcal Meningitis Fact Sheet. February 2010 update. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  8. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Meningitis. August 2008. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meningitis/DS00118. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  9. World Health Organization. Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals. Pneumococcal Vaccines. Available at: http://www.who.int/vaccines/en/pneumococcus.shtml. Accessed on April 7, 2010.
  10. World Health Organization. Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) Fact Sheet. December 2005 update. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs294/en/print.html. Accessed on April 7, 2010.