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In recent times, a movement against vaccinations has slowly developed. Parents argue that vaccines cause severe side effects and potentially autism spectrum disorders. However, the scientific community defends vaccines since no concrete studies back the claims of the critics. In addition, rejecting vaccines result in dangerous consequences. One particular disease that all adolescents should be vaccinated against is meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a rare, but potentially deadly, bacterial infection. The disease can cause severe complications, including hearing loss and kidney damage. Meningococcal disease is difficult to recognize early on, therefore preventative measures like vaccinations are imperative.

Meningococcal disease can cause meningitis. This inflammation can put pressure on the brain and spinal cord. Bacterial meningitis is spread through contact with infected individuals, in which the bacteria trick the immune system into thinking that they are part of the human’s own body. Using this trick, the bacteria sneak into the meninges without being attacked by the body’s innate immunity. Meningococcal bacteria can also infect the blood stream.

Meningitis shares many symptoms with the common cold: vomiting, muscle pain, fever, and headache. This makes meningitis especially difficult to diagnose. More severe symptoms sometimes evident in patients include seizures. In addition, one particularly notable symptom, found especially in older children, is a stiff neck. To confirm the diagnosis, a spinal tap or lumbar puncture is necessary. This procedure removes cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the spine to allow doctors to test for the presence of the bacteria.

 Neck stiffness is a common symptom of meningitis.

Image Source: George Doyle

Treating meningitis requires antibiotics to kill the meningococcal bacteria as well as medicine to calm associated severe symptoms like seizures. Early detection is very important for successful treatment; untreated, the disease can lead to death.

Families should think seriously about the medical decisions they make about vaccines and discuss their options thoroughly with a medical professional. Vaccinations are important in protecting ourselves from dangerous diseases like meningococcal disease and meningitis.

Feature Image Source: Vaccination campain against meningitis in El Fasher by UNAMID

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