On Monday (the 22) I had the pleasure and honour of meeting two ‘experts’ when it comes to the devastating effects of Meningitis. One, a Doctor and Medical Director for the Travel Medicine and Vaccination Centre, has a professional’s knowledge of the disease and the necessity for vaccination. The other – is a father who lost his healthy, vibrant son to the Y strain at the age of 15. Colin Campbell and his wife should NOT be experts on Meningitis, but now are. It was very difficult to hear him share his experience with what happened his son Brodie 6 years ago.
I don’t think I have ever realized just how serious meningitis is. It 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. It can strike quickly, be difficult to diagnose, and (like poor Brodie) can lead to death in a matter of hours. In addition, a potentially life-threatening blood poisoning called septicaemia may be associated with the disease which can lead to the loss of limbs, fingers and toes.
I will freely admit to being one of the many parents who just assume that if the government provided the vaccinations that I and my kids are safe. I was never anti-vaccination – but vaccination complacent. I do feel that it is only because of the vaccinations available today that we in the western world are not having to deal with things like Polio, Measles, and Rubella and so on where other countries without the vaccination program are still struggling. Meningitis is far more virulent where standard vaccination programs are not available.
However, I assumed that the meningitis vaccine provided in British Columbia was ‘good enough.’ And it isn’t Currently our children are vaccinated only for the C strain. If we want to ensure protection against the other equally aggressive strains A Y and W135, we have to ask for it and pay for it. For many, this seems like a bit of a bother for something we don’t REALLY think will happen to us. But meningitis is a fairly easy thing to spread around…..in fact much like flu or the common cold, spreads through close contact. Coughing or sneezing, sharing eating utensils, kissing and close physical contact can spread the germs. We may carry the germs that cause meningitis without realizing it. Because it is difficult if not impossible to stop the transmission of germs, especially among children, prevention becomes an important consideration. Immunization is the only way to prevent the spread of meningitis.
April 24th is World Meningitis Awareness Day. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you as a parent to be the advocate for your family when it comes to immunization. We in British Columbia are in the middle of a hotly contested election. I would suggest that we all ask those running in our various ridings what THEY plan on doing when it comes to making sure our families are protected. Ask your political parties if they would make it a priority to switch from the C only vaccine to a multiple strain vaccine like Menactra and why they would NOT consider this, leaving many of us and our children vulnerable to a terrible and awful infection.