Meningitis Winter warning

With cases of deadly bacterial meningitis peaking during the winter months, national charity, the Meningitis Trust, is warning people to stay vigilant to the signs and symptoms of the disease.

The risk of meningitis increases during the colder months as people spend more time indoors, closer to others; meaning germs are spread more easily. And fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens our immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease.

Every year around 2,500 cases of meningitis are reported in the UK – leaving 10% dead and 15% of those who survive with severe after-effects such as brain damage, loss of hearing and sight and, where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs and scarring. It’s a disease which can strike quickly and kill within hours, so knowledge of the symptoms, remaining vigilant and taking quick action is vital.

Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, says; “Babies and children under five are most at risk of meningitis, with over half of all cases occurring in this age group. However, it can affect anyone, of any age, at any time – even those who consider themselves ‘fit and healthy’ may be left fighting for their life in a matter of hours.

“Meningitis can be a difficult disease to spot – particularly at this time of year - as many of its early symptoms can be similar to those of flu, so we urge everyone to familiarise themselves with the symptoms, trust their instincts and get urgent medical help if concerned. Doing this could save yours or a loved one’s life.”

The symptoms of meningitis can include fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, joint or muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, drowsiness, confusion, convulsions and in babies, a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry, rapid breathing and bulging fontanelle. Both adults and children may also have a rash that does not fade under pressure. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all. If concerned, seek urgent medical attention.

In the absence of vaccines for all strains of meningitis, knowing the symptoms is the best form of defence. Visit www.meningitis-symptoms.co.uk for more information, call the Meningitis Trust free, any time of the day or night, on 0800 028 18 28 and request the charity’s free credit-card sized symptoms card, or download its free symptoms app (available on iPhone and Android platforms) from www.meningitisapp.co.uk.

The Meningitis Trust is committed to saving lives across the UK. Every month 30,000 people visit its signs and symptoms page on its website and to-date the charity has given out nearly 20 million of its free symptoms cards. However, with cases of meningitis occurring every day, some with fatal consequences, the charity is asking people to spread its cold weather warning to family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and communities – sending people to its website or free helpline for more information.

For over 25 years the charity has developed its support and now reaches around 20,000 people each year; through its 24-hour nurse-led helpline, family days, counselling, art,

play and music therapy, one-to-one contacts, financial grants and community support. Its commitment is clear – to make sure everyone affected gets support for life.