France has seen a sharp increase in the number of cases of potentially fatal meningococcal meningitis since the lifting of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Pasteur Institute warns about this. Experts call for the immediate distribution of the vaccine for teenagers, who are particularly vulnerable to this disease, writes OuestFrance.
“Meningococcal meningitis experienced an unprecedented rise in the fall of 2022, and now, in the fall of 2023, the number of cases is higher than in the period preceding the COVID-19 pandemic”– said Sami Taha, a researcher at the Department of Invasive Bacterial Infections at the Pasteur Institute.
Scientists have two explanations for this trend:
- a decrease in general immunity due to a drop in the circulation of strains;
- the vaccination rate, which fell by 20%.
“We believe it is time to review the current vaccination strategy,” – says Muhammed-Kheir Taha, head of the National Meningococcal Reference Center.
In France, only meningococcal group C vaccination is mandatory from 2018, and meningococcal B vaccination is only recommended for infants from 2022.
Scientists in collaboration with the National Health Authority of France have issued recommendations calling for the spread of the quadrivalent vaccine against meningococci groups A, C, Y and W (currently strains Y and W cause most cases of meningitis in the country). First of all, it is recommended to vaccinate teenagers, because they are the main healthy carriers of meningococcus.
Researchers suggest that this disease may increase in the coming months, in particular due to the seasonal flu epidemic, which creates favorable conditions for the development of meningococcal bacteria.
What is known about meningitis and why is it dangerous?
Meningitis is a serious infectious disease characterized by inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord, the Pasteur Institute reminds. It occurs both independently and against the background of other infectious diseases.
Infection occurs from person to person with close and prolonged contact. About 10% of people are asymptomatic carriers of meningococci. Among teenagers, the frequency is higher – every third representative of this age category is a carrier.
The main symptoms of the disease are high fever, severe headaches, vomiting, sensitivity to light, red or purple spots, etc. This disease is unpredictable and devastating. Without prompt treatment, it can lead to death in less than 24 hours. With proper treatment, the mortality rate is 10%.
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