Your child 1-3 years

Meningococcal meningitis: what are the symptoms?

Meningococcal meningitis: what are the symptoms?



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700 meningitis cases of this type occur each year in France. In more than 60% of cases, they concern children and in particular those under 5 years.

The explanations and advice of Dr. Muhamed Kheir Taha, head of the National Reference Center for Meningococci, at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.

How to recognize meningococcal meningitis?

  • The causative bacteria (meningococcus) enters the pharynx, passes into the blood and then gains cerebrospinal fluid from the meninges (brain envelopes).
  • In the infant, a change in behavior must guide the parents: he refuses to suck, is apathetic, fontanel is bulging.
  • In the bigger child, the infection initially looks like an influenza-like illness with fever, sore thighs and tiredness. Hemorrhagic spots on the skin (purpura) may appear. This picture gives way to the meningeal syndrome, characterized by a headache, stiffness of the neck, jet vomiting, increased sensitivity to light. Children then readily adopt a fetal position.

Are there different kinds of meningitis?

  • The bacterium is divided into several groups, including A, B, C. In France, we find essentially type B (85%), incidentally types C (18%) and A (1.5%).

Is it a serious illness?

  • Meningococcal meningitis is a medical emergency. A brutal, high fever should always alert parents, as well as headaches or the appearance of spots on the body (purpura), a phenomenon that occurs on average in 30% of cases: especially on the limbs, but also n anywhere on the skin or mucous membranes before spreading. These spots are easy to spot because they do not fade on pressure, unlike a measles or rubella type eruption. This is a major sign of gravity.
  • Any delay in management increases the risk of serious complications (deafness, paralysis, developmental delay), or even death.

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