World Meningitis Day 2017: Exclusive Interview With PadmaShri Dr. C.U Velmurugendran

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Highlights:
  • The World Meningitis Day 2017 is observed on 24th April every year to raise awareness about the disease, which can be life threatening.
  • The theme for this year's World Meningitis Day is "24hours-trust your instincts", laying stress on the need for early detection.
  • PadmaShri award winner, Dr. C.U.Velmurugendran talks exclusively to Medindia about meningitis, care and preventive strategies.
World Meningitis Day 2017 is observed on the 24th of April to spread awareness about the disease, awareness and knowledge being key to prevention. Meningitis is a disease that occurs when there is an inflammation of the meninges- the thin lining that covers the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is due to an infection, with the severity of the infection dependent on the cause of infection.
World Meningitis Day 2017: Exclusive Interview With Padma Shri Dr. C.U Velmurugendran
World Meningitis Day 2017: Exclusive Interview With PadmaShri Dr. C.U Velmurugendran

Symptoms:

Identifing meningitis at an early stage is vital so that treatment can be started as soon as possible and incidences of fatality prevented. The most characteristic symptom of meningitis is a severe headache along with an inability to move the head forward due to a condition called nuchal rigidity, where there is stiffness and rigidity of the neck muscle.

The Early symptoms of Meningitis:
  • Severe headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea with/without vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Shivering or cold hands and feet
  • Blotchy skin along with lips that may turn blue
Advanced Symptoms of Meningitis:
  • Fits
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Heavy breathing
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Photophobia- unable to tolerate bright light
Theme for World Meningitis Day 2017: '24 Hours- Trust Your Instincts'

Meningitis is known to affect more than 1 million people worldwide and in extreme cases, this infection can lead to death within 24 hours. Therefore, it is very important to identify symptoms early and to get the right treatment immediately.

Some forms of meningitis can be prevented using vaccines but there are other forms like tuberculosis meningitis which cannot be prevented with vaccination.

This World Meningitis Day 2017, Medindia conducted an exclusive interview with Dr. C.U.Velmurugendran, a leading neurologist from Chennai.
Dr. C.U.Velmurugendran

In 2008 he was the recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri Award instituted by the Government of India
  • He worked for The World Health Organization in 1974
  • He was a senior neurologist at Dr. MGR Medical University and then at Sri Ramachandra Medical College
  • He is currently in the faculty selection committee at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology
  • He is a recipient of an honorary Doctorate degree instituted by the Dr. M.G.R Medical University
Q. Doctor, you have been in the field of neurology for many years, how has the experience been?
Ans. I have been in this field for over 60 years and it has been very pleasant.

Q. How many patients with meningitis are reported in Chennai?
Ans. I will not be able to tell you how many patients have meningitis in general, but I can tell you from the hospital perspective. We see one new patient with meningitis every week.

Q. How severe is meningitis?
Ans. Meningitis is a very severe and serious condition. It affects the meninges, which is the layer covering the brain. It is important to identify the disease early so that the correct diagnosis may be provided.

Q. What are the early signs of the disease?
Ans. Patients normally present with fever, severe headache and vomiting. Children, who are unable to state the reason behind their discomfort, may cry nonstop. The patients may seem to have a chronic headache and it could lead to a loss of appetite, convulsions and a lapse of memory. In such situations, the patient should be rushed to the doctor to prevent any further damage to the brain.

The patients may enter into a coma, though many patients have been brought back to normal after that, it can be avoided by providing treatment at the right stage.

Q. What are the treatment options available for meningitis?
Ans. The treatment provided depends upon the cause of meningitis. In pyogenic meningitis, antibiotics may be provided, while in tuberculosis meningitis, there are specific drugs. There were only 3 drugs available for tuberculosis meningitis 60 years back, but there are multiple drugs available now. There are corticosteroids that are provided to patients and surgical interventions to remove obstructions to the flow of blood. In extreme cases, the skull may be opened to help with treatment.

Q. How can meningitis be prevented?
Ans. Meningitis caused by tuberculosisis a constant threat as TB is air borne and can affect the lungs, after which it can move into the meninges. Other causes for meningitis are infections of the central nervous system, scalp, skin or even ear infections which could ultimately infect the meninges. There are vaccines like BCG that offer some amount of protection. It is important to look after the general health and ensure good personal hygiene.

Hand washing is highly recommended but few people actually follow it. Pigs are other sources of meningitis causing infections, home cooked meals should be preferred after following good cooking practices.

Q. Children use a lot of tablets and smartphones, does that affect the neurological development?
Ans. There are many benefits of children using tablets, school children get their homework schedules these days. However, excessive use and exposure to aggressive behavior in the games could lead to the imprinting of such behavior. There are no known effects on neurological development.

Q. What is your advice to caregivers of people with meningitis doctor?
Ans. Meningitis is highly infectious and it can spread very fast. Caregivers should have their mouths covered, and they should be safe. However, the patient would need their physical and emotional support and they should be with them to help them through this condition.

Q. Finally, What is your message to people on this World Meningitis Day?
Ans. Detect the symptoms of meningitis early, there would be constant headache, blurring of vision and nausea which are classic symptoms of the disease. The faster you take your loved one to the doctor, the better the chances of survival.

References:
  1. Meningitis - (https:www.nhp.gov.in/disease/neurological/meningitis)
  2. World Meningitis Day 2017 - (https:labtestsonline.org/site-news/mnews/170404-worldmeningitisday/)
  3. WORLD MENINGITIS DAY 2017 - (http://www.comomeningitis.org/world-meningitis-day/wmd-2017/)

Source: Medindia

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