A vaccine-preventable disease, meningitis accumulates hundreds of cases in Ceará every year. In 2020, the state totaled 225 cases and 22 deaths from the disease. This year, until August, 108 people were infected and 7 died, according to the State Health Department (Sesa).
The most recent death case occurred in Fortaleza on Wednesday (1st). The victim was a two-year-old child, according to the Municipal Health Department (SMS).
Fortaleza concentrated, from January to August 2021, more than half of the records in the entire state: 60 of the confirmed cases and 5 of the deaths from meningitis were in the capital. The occurrences consider people with meningococcal disease and other meningitis.
Meningitis can be caused by several agents, such as viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria. In Ceará, bacterial disease predominates, as noted by physician Robério Leite, a pediatric infectious disease specialist.
“Virals, in general, have a favorable evolution. But the ones that worry the most are the bacterial ones, because they can be associated with outbreaks. The symptoms are similar, so identifying the agent depends on an exam”, he explains.
In 2020, of the 199 patients hospitalized with meningitis in Ceará, at least 146 were infected with bacteria. This year, until June, there were already 69 hospitalizations for the disease, 48 of them for bacterial meningitis. The data are from the SUS Hospital Information System.
Pediatrician Vanuza Chagas warns that the disease caused by meningococcus, one of the most important infectious agents, “is extremely dangerous, has a high mortality rate and can leave permanent sequelae, such as deafness, cerebral palsy and even limb amputation.”
Fall in vaccination coverage
The biggest concern regarding the presence of the causative agents of meningitis is the drop in the search for vaccination. In Ceará, until June, all vaccines against the disease had coverage below 70%, when the ideal is to reach at least 95% of the public. Coverage rates are the worst in years.
The main vaccines that fight meningitis are offered in the SUS, such as meningococcal C, applied from 3 months of life onwards; and meningococcal ACWY, for teenagers. In the private network, clinics have meningococcal B and ACWY.
Adults and adolescents can be asymptomatic carriers of meningococcus and transmit it to children, hence the great importance of vaccination.
The infectologist Robério Leite reinforces that the vaccine is the only effective form of prevention against meningitis, since “all of us, at some point, can carry meningococcus in our throat and transmit it to a child”.