Public hospitals in the Garden Route have recently reported an increase in cases of patients with enteroviral meningitis. The disease most commonly occurs during the warmer months in South Africa.

The Western Cape Government Department of Health has released an official statement saying that over 10 cases have been confirmed in George since the start of this month.

“George Hospital has seen a total of 71 patients with suspected enteroviral meningitis since February 1 2019. Eleven cases have been confirmed by the laboratory. Most of these cases are children under 14 years of age.”

Mossel Bay is another sub-district that has been experiencing an increase in suspected enteroviral meningitis cases, with a total of 19 cases seen since the start of February at Mossel Bay Hospital.

Knysna Hospital has also seen more cases, with a total of 66 suspected cases of the disease recently. None were from a single geographical area or source.

The Western Cape Department of Health assures the public that no deaths have been reported from these cases.

“This is not the bacterial form (known as meningococcal) of meningitis. No deaths and no cases with serious complications have been reported to date.”

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord and that surrounds the brain. It is usually caused by a virus or a bacterium (micro-organism).

The enterovirus is the most common cause of viral meningitis worldwide. It is a common virus that can enter the body through the mouth and travel to the brain and surrounding tissues. It is a mild illness and the majority of people infected by it will recover within 7– 10 days.

People of all ages are at risk of contracting the disease, but individuals with a compromised immune system as well as children younger than five years old are the most at risk.

Here are several common meningitis symptoms in children: 

– Fever

– Poor eating

– Irritability

– Lethargy

– Sleepiness

Common symptoms in adults:

– Fever

– Stiff neck

– Headache

– Dislike of bright lights

– Lethargy

– Sleepiness

– Lack of appetite

– Nausea

– Vomiting

How can you prevent an infection?

“Western Cape Government Health has strengthened its efforts within the affected sub-districts with a focus on handwashing and general hygiene. Community Health Workers have also been trained around the reinforcement of hygienic practices.”

Locals are advised to adopt hygienic habits.

“Good hygiene practices including hand washing after using the toilet, changing nappies or visiting sick people and disinfection of surfaces will reduce the chances of getting an enteroviral infection. Covering your cough or sneeze, and washing hands thereafter is also helpful.”

Along with following these hygiene guidelines, adults should also teach and encourage children to wash their hands properly, and emphasise regular hand washing when children are at school and in contact with other children.

Picture: Unsplash

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