Children, young adults at maximum risk of brain fever

Bindu Shajan Perappadan

MCD confirms six deaths, 49 confirmed cases in the Capital since November

NEW DELHI: The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has identified children less than five years of age and young adults from 15 to 25 years as the population that is at maximum risk of contracting meningococcal diseases.

The MCD had this past Thursday confirmed six deaths due to meningococcal diseases and 49 confirmed cases in the city since November, though unofficial figures put the number of cases at over 100.

"There is no age-specific risk. However, children under five years of age and young adults from 15 to 25 years are at a higher risk of contracting meningococcal diseases that has registered an increase in the city since the beginning of winter," said Municipal Health Officer N. K. Yadav.

Doctors claim that the bacteria spread through close and prolonged contact with a carrier. However, they caution that the spread could be quick and fatal even in healthy young adults.

"We haven't issued any travel advisory to tourists since it is not a disease that is new to the Capital. The Civil Lines, Walled City and Shahdara North zones have recorded the maximum number of cases of meningococcal. We are taking adequate precautions. The bacteria spreads through droplets that are shed from the nose or throat of a patient and do not survive for long outside the body. The majority of the cases seen in Delhi are caused by group A bacteria," said Mr. Yadav.

He stressed that while there was no cause for panic, people should not go in for vaccination.

"Though safe and effective vaccination is available, at present it is not recommended for mass immunisation and is for high-risk groups including health care workers and individuals who are in contact or likely to be in contact with a patient of meningococcal diseases," added Mr. Yadav.

Figures released by the MCD have indicated a drop in the number of cases and deaths compared with last year.

"Lack of proper awareness about the facts, preventive measures and treatment can be fatal. Meningococcal is endemic in Delhi and cases of meningococcal meningitis have occurred in previous years also. Large outbreaks of meningococcal meningitis in and around Delhi during 1966 and 1985 have been documented," said Delhi Medical Council member Dr. Anil Bansal.