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Posted in Wellbeing

Published on July 04, 2014 with No Comments



In the early stages, meningitis can look like the flu, but the disease can progress quickly.  Meningitis symptoms in anyone over age two include the sudden appearance of a high fever; a severe headache; stiffness of the neck; nausea or vomiting; confusion; sleepiness; sensitivity to light; lack of an appetite; seizures; and, in some cases, a skin rash.  In infants and toddlers under the age of two, the symptoms can be less obvious.  Signs to watch for include a high fever; high pitched crying; dislike of being handled or fretful behaviour (babies with meningitis can be difficult to comfort and may cry even harder when picked up); neck retraction with arching of the back; irritability; lethargy or sleepiness; refusing feeds or vomiting; a bulge in the soft spot on top of the head; neck and body stiffness, and in some cases, a skin rash. Seek medical help immediately if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering meningitis.  Not all individuals will experience all symptoms.


Meningitis Relief Canada (MRC) is a Canadian registered charity that raises meningitis awareness and provides grief and bereavement counseling as well as financial assistance to individuals and families affected by the after-effects of meningitis. For more information please visit or email

Call it mother’s intuition or call it a hunch, but Furakh Mir knew something was very wrong with her baby boy.  Told by both her local hospital and a walk-in clinic that everything was fine, she could see that baby Sulayman was suffering something very different than a normal childhood cold or flu.  He had a fever, seemed lethargic, and had a high pitched cry when held.  She couldn’t place her finger on it, but it was not normal.


Mir persisted and took her and her infant to Sick Kids.  It was there that Sulayman was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.


“When we arrived at Sick Kids, Sulayman was admitted and was taken in to be examined right away. They performed a urine and blood test, and for the worst case scenario performed a lumbar puncture, in order to test for meningitis” recalls Mir from her home in Brampton.  “One hour later the ER physician came in and advised us that Sulayman had bacterial meningitis. They immediately began a course of aggressive antibiotics. The doctors at Sick Kids were wonderful, but it was the most frightening time of our lives.”


Fortunately, after a month of treatment at Sick Kids,Sulayman made a full recovery and is now a happy, healthy three-year old.  However, this experience motivated his mother to create the Canadian registered charity, Meningitis Relief Canada (MRC), in order to support families affected by meningitis, and prevent others from having to go through what she did.


Sulayman was very lucky.  This year, more than 1000 Canadians will contract meningitis. Approximately 10 percent will die, and 25 percentof those who survive will face long-term disability, such as neurological damage, blindness, hearing loss, or limb amputation. The mortality and morbidity rates are higher in young infants, approximately 20 percent of cases will result in death and up to 50 percent of babies will have neurological sequelae for the rest of their lives.


Meningitis is an inflammation of the protective membranes lining the brain and spinal cord.  It can be caused by any one of dozens of bacteria or viruses.  Viral meningitis is rarely fatal, and in most cases will run its course in seven to ten days.  Bacterial meningitis requires urgent medical attention as symptoms can progress quickly.  A quarter of Canadians who die of bacterial meningitis will do so within the first 48 hours.


Children under the age of five are most at risk, and make up over half of all cases in Canada every year.  Teenagers and older Canadians are also at increased risk, as are pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system.


Vaccines are available for three common strains of bacterial meningitis:  Pneumococcal, Meningococcal and Hib. The MMR vaccine also protects against one type of viral meningitis. A new vaccine, Bexsero®, to protect against meningococcal group B disease (MenB) was approved by Health Canada in December 2013, and is now available to Canadians for purchase. There are no vaccines available to prevent against other types of meningitis.


In April, the Ontario government announced three new mandatory vaccinations for children that will be covered under the province’s publically funded immunization program. All students attending primary or secondary school this fall will need to have proof of immunization against three more diseases: meningococcal disease, whooping cough and –for children born in 2010 or later — chickenpox. When it comes to meningitis, parents should be aware that not availablevaccinations (for various types of meningitis) are included in the provincial program. The new Meningitis B vaccine, for instance, is not included.  Parents should talk to their doctor about vaccination options.  Also, as vaccines are not available for all strains and newborns for example, are not protected by vaccination – its very important that parents and healthcare workers recognize the signs and symptoms.


“Vaccines are the only effective prevention we have, but right now they are only available against certain strains of the disease,” Mir explains.  “Canadians need to get vaccinated, but families and medical professionals still need to remain vigilant and know the signs and symptoms, in order to get the proper medical help before it’s too late.”








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