World Meningitis Day is April 24


Of all infectious diseases, perhaps none grips parents with greater fear than meningitis, with its sudden onset, flu-like symptoms and potentially deadly nature. World Meningitis Day, April 24, is dedicated to raising disease awareness, underscoring the importance of prevention through vaccination and improving support for those dealing with the potentially devastating consequences of the disease.

The Confederation of Meningitis Organizations (CoMO) invites people to visit and become a member of the global family by joining in the fight against meningitis, and to show support for meningitis awareness and prevention.

Meningitis is a potentially deadly inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which can be the result of infection by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Bacterial meningitis is the most severe type, and it is a medical emergency. It can strike quickly, be difficult to diagnose, and can lead to death in a matter of hours. In addition, a potentially life-threatening blood poisoning called septicemia may be associated with the disease.

Those surviving bacterial meningitis or septicaemia can have their lives devastated as a result of after-effects, such as deafness, epilepsy, brain damage, and, with septicaemia, limb loss. Meningitis impacts people of all ages, but infants, children and adolescents are particularly at risk of infection.

Vaccines are now available to protect against many of the bacteria which cause meningitis and septicemia.

"No one should ever have to see their child, sibling, friend or classmate suffer or die from a disease that is vaccine-preventable," says Bruce Langoulant, president and member of the Governing Council of CoMO, and father of a meningitis survivor. "On World Meningitis Day, we must educate people about meningitis and urge them to protect themselves, their families and their community against meningitis. Talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to defend yourself and your loved ones from this devastating disease."

This year, to raise awareness of meningitis and bring a face to the disease that knows no borders, CoMO is launching a podcast on meningococcal disease, a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. The podcast, created with the support of Novartis Vaccines, features experts, survivors and parents from around the world whose lives have been touched by the disease. The podcast is available on the CoMO website (, as well as Facebook and YouTube.

CoMO members around the world are recognizing World Meningitis Day by raising awareness in the media and online via websites and social networks as well as in their communities through local events and fundraisers. To learn more about activities near you, check for a CoMO member in your country by visiting

Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. It can be the result of infection by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious type of meningitis, and it is often associated with a potentially life-threatening blood infection (septicemia). The most common bacteria causing meningitis and septicemia are Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcal) and Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcal).

Meningitis can develop rapidly and its symptoms often resemble the flu (e.g., fever, fatigue and headache), which makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose. Even with early and appropriate treatment, the rates of death and serious long-term effects of the disease can be high. Survivors often suffer serious long-term consequences, such as deafness, epilepsy, brain damage, and limb loss. While the disease can affect people of all ages, infants, children and adolescents are at an increased risk of infection. Immunisation against bacterial meningitis with those vaccines that are available is essential; no one should suffer from this disease.

World Meningitis Day annually on April 24  is dedicated to raising awareness of meningitis, underscoring the importance of prevention through vaccination and improving support for those dealing with the potentially devastating consequences of this disease. The global family has grown over the past two years and now reaches across the globe from North and South America, through Europe to the Middle East, into the Indian subcontinent and throughout South East Asia and the Far East to Australia to join hands across state lines, country borders and continents. The date of April 24, 2011 is significant because it overlaps with European Immunization Week, sponsored by the World Health Organization, and Vaccination Week in the Americas, promoted by Pan American Health Organization and supported by health authorities throughout the United States, Canada and Central America.

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