Infantile meningitis may cause later disability
Meningitis in infancy has been known to be largely fatal. If not, it may result in moderate to severe disability, which often lasts a lifetime. The disability is more likely to occur if the baby contracts the infection during the neonatal period.
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, children who contract meningitis during the neonatal period or in the first year of life are at a significant risk of developing disabilities. Children who had an attack of meningitis in the first year were studied till they were 5 years old. Among the survivors, there was a ten-fold increase in the risk of severe or moderate disability compared with the control group.
The study also showed that the effects of neonatal meningitis were more serious than after the first month. Children who had neonatal meningitis had more motor disabilities and seizure disorders. Apart from severe deficits in motor and intellectual functioning in children who had suffered from an attack, it was also seen that such children had more subtle deficits like squint, middle ear infection and behavioural problems than normal children. These problems adversely affected the child's future growth.
Meningitis is a severe infection of the brain commonly caused by a virus or bacteria. There is swelling of the brain membranes and the blood supply to parts of the brain may be impaired. There may be loss of brain tissue and thus reduced brain functioning. Though meningitis is uncommon, when it does occur, it is most common during the first year of a child's life. Though the preventive measures have increased now, it is still a dreaded childhood disease.
BMJ 2001, 323:533
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