If there is one word that scares parents and pediatricians it is, without a doubt, meningitis. It gives its name to one of the most feared syndromes in the world, due to its high mortality and percentage of sequelae among survivors.
However, the last name that accompanies this term is crucial, because if the meningitis is 'viral', the prognosis is excellent in most cases. It is still a serious illness, but it allows us to reassure families a lot. I wish I could say that it is never fatal, or that it never leaves sequelae, but Medicine is governed by percentages that prevent me from assuring anything with such emphaticness.
In any case, the prognosis is much better than if meningitis is accompanied by the word 'bacterial', 'pneumococcal' or 'meningococcal'. They are horror movies that pediatricians want to stop watching. Terror for families, due to the seriousness of the situation and its high rates of morbidity and mortality. And terror for pediatricians, because whatever we do, its evolution is so fast and explosive that we are always behind the disease.
In fact, despite all the advances in current medicine, the mortality and sequelae rates remain stable. It is as if the bacteria has already decided fate before we can diagnose it. Only two or three hours ago he was a happy infant, a child with an isolated rush of fever who ate cookies and smiled, but then it was too late.
There is no way to see it coming. And it is no one's fault, although most parents want to look for a possible delay in diagnosis, no one is to blame, except for the disease itself, which evolves so quickly. A train without brakes that costs a lot to stop.
There are only two positives regarding the Bacterial meningitis. The first is that it is a very rare disease. It is easier for us to win the Christmas lottery than for our son to have bacterial meningitis. The second is that, at present, we have vaccines available to prevent this horror movie, against the two bacteria that most frequently cause this condition: pneumococcus and meningococcus.
For the first we have, finally!, A vaccine financed throughout the Spanish territory. It has been difficult, but we have achieved it together. For the second, we have some funded and others not, it all depends on the type of meningococcus. There are up to six different classes: A, B, C, W, X and Y. There is a funded vaccine against C, and other unfunded against B and tetravalent against types A, C, W and Y. Generally well known for the families, because at the moment they have to be paid, I hope that in a few years they can be financed, as some autonomous communities have already promised.
If your pediatrician has not recommended them, it is because he has never seen bacterial meningitis. It is enough to suffer one, in the third person and with a stethoscope around the neck, to never want to see it again. While we fight for it to be financed throughout the Spanish territory, give life to your children by administering these vaccines, because if the disease develops, it will be too late for everyone.
I would love to be less drastic, but when I was a pediatric resident I myself dreamed of the day we would have vaccines against pneumococcal or meningococcal meningitis. Now I no longer have to dream, I only ask you to protect your child to avoid, as far as possible, that heartfelt hug that no pediatrician wants to offer to any parent.
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