Meningitis preventable, but a ‘silent killer’


Globally, meningitis infects one million people each year, according to the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO).

World Meningitis Day, marked on April 24, St Raphael’s Primary School in Athlone handed over more than R3 000 to Deidré Fredericks from the Meningitis Association of South Africa, who received it on behalf of the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital.

Last Thursday, St Raphael’s held a special assembly where teacher Cathylia Botha, told the pupils that meningitis is caused when the protective tissue around the brain or spinal cord gets damaged. This can be caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection.

“I had to find a way of bringing the message across to the pupils at their level by using various demonstrations. Meningitis is preventable that’s why we need to educate more people,” said Ms Botha.

She encouraged pupils to go for vaccinations every 12 years and wash their hands thoroughly to avoid contracting the disease. She told pupils to cough into their elbows because germs were less likely to spread that way.

The school struck on the idea for the meningitis campaign after teacher Tamaryn Petersen shared a Facebook post by Ms Fredericks.

“Five years ago, my daughter passed away from meningitis, and that is why I decided to start the organisation, because there is no support for people suffering from the disease. Meningitis can kill or disable with in 24 hours,” Ms Fredericks said.

“I am so emotional about the money I received from the school,” she added.

Ms Petersen said the state needed to do more to stop the spread of meningitis.

“The idea behind the campaign is to get the government to bring vaccines to the school, because people cannot afford to pay R550 for a vaccine.

“Meningitis is a silent killer, because many people confuse the symptoms with a cold or flu,” said Ms Petersen.

The symptoms of the disease are a fever, severe headache, rash on the entire body, dizzy spells, and sensitivity to light.

Principal Ingrid Leukes said she had also learnt a lot from the talk. “We are giving the children the facts, but also teaching them about compassion, empathy, and hygiene. We are doing this to support Tygerberg Children’s Hospital, support Deidré’s campaign, as well as a social responsibility in the community.”

The school also distributed pamphlets in Athlone with information about the disease.

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