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Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. It is also potentially life threatening, and most often affects children younger than 10.  One way to defeat meningitis is by clearing up myths and misconceptions about this disease. 

A bacterium causes invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) which can lead to meningitis and septic shock. The symptoms can be confused with those of other diseases like the flu, malaria or COVID-19.

Dr Nasiha Soofie, medical head at Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines, says: “The most important thing is to act fast. Any delay in diagnosis and treatment claims lives. It may leave others with serious lifelong after-effects.” 

For more about meningitis, read here

Knowing the signs and symptoms could save a life and help defeat meningitis. These are a few myths and facts: 

Myth: IMD is easy to diagnose.

  • Fact: It is often misdiagnosed as something less serious, because early symptoms are similar to flu and other common viral illnesses. Symptoms may include some combination of high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, and a purplish rash.

Myth: It is only dangerous in young children.

  • Fact: While it is most common in infants younger than one, anyone can get IMD.  There is a greater risk for adolescents, students and others who live in dormitories. Other young adults are also more at risk than children and older adults. 

Myth: Meningococcal vaccines can cause meningococcal disease.

  • Fact: It is not possible to get IMD from vaccination. Side effects are generally mild and uncommon. They may include redness or swelling at the site of injection. Meningococcal vaccines protect against death and severe complications caused by IMD. Immunise your family to help defeat meningitis. 

Myth: Healthy adolescents and young adults don’t have to worry about getting IMD.

  • Fact: IMD is rare, but the risk of getting it increases in adolescents and young adults. The disease can progress rapidly, killing an otherwise healthy individual in 24–48 hours.

Myth: Meningococcal disease is spread by casual contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands.

  • Fact: It is is spread through air droplets and direct contact with an infected person. 

Get the jab

Vaccinate your family against IMD. The meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against four types of Meningococcal bacteria. We recommend it for all infants and children,” says Dr Soofie.

People have missed their immunisations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means the number of cases could rise when people are able to gather again in large groups. 

 Vaccination is recommended, especially for people at higher risk of IMD. This includes people with a damaged immune system, healthy infants, young children attending creche and school children, university students and others living in crowded conditions.


With thanks to Sanofi Pasteur for the information.