Here’s how parents can protect their kids from meningococcal disease

After death in the district of Kleve : How parents can protect their children from meningococci

The Arche Noah daycare center in Emmerich: This is where the child was cared for

Dusseldorf In the circle Kleve a child with suspicion on Meningokokken died. Now all the children who were with him in the nursery should be medically examined. But what are meningococci? And can you protect children from the disease?

Susanne Hamann

Meningitis or blood poisoning (sepsis) are the diseases caused by the bacteria called meningococci. There are a total of twelve different subgroups (serogroups) of the bacterium that doctors call Neisseria meningitidis. Some of them cause major epidemics in Africa, for example. In Germany there are mainly two serogroups: Serogroup B and C.

How to protect children from the disease?

One option in particular is important: Because of the severity of meningococcal disease, frequent complications and high mortality, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has recommended since 2006 that all children in their second year of life receive a single vaccination against meningococcal C. Older children and adolescents up to the age of 18. It is recommended that children who have not yet been vaccinated against meningococcus C on their 60th birthday receive the vaccination as soon as possible. Since September 2013, there has also been a vaccine against meningococcus B. However, this vaccination is currently not recommended as standard in Germany.

What can I do if my child has already had contact with a meningococcal patient but is not showing symptoms?

The first rule is to see a doctor immediately. It must be ensured as soon as possible that the child is not infected. The doctor also gives an antibiotic as a preventive measure. These are either rifampicin, ceftriaxone or ciprofloxacin. Which drug is given for prophylaxis depends, among other things, on the age of the patient.

All precautions for children at a glance

In the case of meningococcal infections, the regulations of the Infection Protection Act apply. Children and adults are temporarily not allowed to visit community facilities such as schools or kindergartens as soon as meningococcal disease is suspected. This also applies to people in whose residential community a case of the disease or suspected case has occurred. Affected individuals must inform the community facility of the illness and also of the suspicion. After recovery, those affected can visit community facilities again. A medical certificate is not necessary.

The Arche Noah daycare center in Emmerich:

This is what the dangerous meningococci look like,

Here's how parents can protect their kids from meningococcal disease

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How meningococci are transmitted?

The bacteria are transmitted via droplet infection, i.e. mainly through coughing and sneezing and via direct contact, for example when kissing. Outside the body they die quickly, so that transmission through everyday touch is not possible.

What symptoms occur?

Meningitis occurs in around 70 percent of cases, and more than a third develop blood poisoning. In rare cases, there may also be a mixture of both diseases.

There is usually three to four days between infection and outbreak. In some cases two to ten days are possible. Flu-like symptoms appear initially. This is followed by sudden onset of severe headache, high fever, nausea, sensitivity to light and neck stiffness. Neck stiffness is a typical meningococcal symptom.

Small, punctate skin hemorrhages occur in a large proportion of patients. In infants and young children, symptoms are often more difficult to interpret. Clues include fever, shrill crying, restlessness or listlessness. Parents should also be alert if children refuse food and may experience vomiting, diarrhea and sensitivity to touch. In these cases, a doctor’s office or the nearest hospital should be visited immediately.

How are meningococci treated?

Sick persons must be treated as inpatients. The main part of the therapy is the administration of antibiotics. In addition, patients receive intensive medical care. Close contacts are also treated with antibiotics as a preventive measure to prevent illness.

How often does the disease occur in Germany?

Meningococcal infection is most common in children under the age of five, with most becoming ill within the first two years of life. Young people between the ages of 15 and 19 are also at risk. Experts estimate a total of around 900 cases per year.

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