Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is caused when germs infect the fluid which circulates around the brain and spinal cord. Septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease, which can cause shock, multiple organ failure and tissue destruction.
Meningitis and septicaemia can affect anyone. However, the majority of cases occur in children under five years with those under one year most at risk.
What is World Meningitis Day?
Wednesday 24 April 2013 will mark the fifth anniversary of World Meningitis Day (WMD), a day dedicated to raising awareness of meningitis and supporting those who have been touched by the disease.
Why get involved?
- Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia kill more children under five than any other infectious disease in the UK , with babies most at risk .
- The leading cause of bacterial meningitis is meningococcal disease .
- Children aren’t protected against all forms of meningitis and parents should therefore remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of meningitis.
- “One of the biggest myths is that children are protected against all types of meningitis through vaccination and this is, in reality, not the case”, says Dr Nelly Ninis, Consultant Paediatrician at St Mary’s Hospital London and supporter of the Meningitis: Keep Watching campaign. “Children are only protected against some types of meningitis so parents must be aware of the signs and seek urgent medical help as this disease can maim or kill within hours.”
- Anyone can catch bacterial meningitis at any time. As many as one in ten of those infected will die and up to one in five survivors will be left with after-effects including brain damage, amputations and hearing loss which may require ongoing care .
For these reasons alone it is vital that information about the very real threat of meningitis is spread to other parents.
How can you get involved?
1. ‘Meningitis: Keep Watching’ is a campaign spearheaded by Meningitis Research Foundation, Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK with support from Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited, encouraging parents to remain vigilant for the signs and symptoms of the disease.
2. Go to the ‘Meningitis: Keep Watching’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/meningitiskeepwatching and Like / Share the page and the tab applications including our new Pledge to Protect quiz.
3. Share the posts and case studies from the Facebook wall or get in touch to speak to someone who has experienced this disease.
4. Visit the YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/meningitiskeepwatch where you can watch our short film and embed it into your blog for others to watch.
5. Help us to share the campaign as widely as possible using the hashtag #meningitiskeepwatching
6. Champion the work of meningitis charities in the UK, who are dedicated to supporting families affected by the disease. For further information on meningitis as well as a number of educational resources, please visit the charities’ websites:
Symptoms of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia
Sudden and aggressive, meningitis and septicaemia can kill within 24 hours of symptom onset4. Symptoms can often resemble the flu, making it easily misdiagnosed in its early stages, even for experienced healthcare professionals .
Symptoms may appear in any order and some may not appear at all. They may include some or all of the following :
|The Glass Test for Meningitis|
• Severe headache
• Painfully stiff neck
• Sensitivity to light
• Very sleepy
• Non blanching rash (doesn’t disappear under pressure - aka the glass test, see image)
Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia
• can kill in less than 24 hours, even with treatment
• kills up to one in ten of those infected
• leaves up to one in five of survivors with after effects including long term disabilities, such as brain damage, amputations and hearing loss
• is the leading cause of death from infectious disease in children under five in the UK, with babies most at risk
Children are currently not protected against all types of meningitis, so it’s important that parents Keep Watching for the signs and symptoms.
Meningitis Research Foundation, Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK have a number of resources available for parents to download, including handy symptom checkers. These can be found here:
- Office for National Statistics. Mortality statistics: Deaths registered in 2010 (Series DR) Office for National Statistics. Mortality statistics: Deaths registered in 2010 (Series DR) Table 5.1 Available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/mortality-statistics--deaths-registered-in-england-and-wales--series-dr-/2010/dr-tables-2010.xls Accessed April 2013.
- Health Protection Agency. Epidemiological data webpage. Available at: www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/MeningococcalDisease/EpidemiologicalData/ Accessed April 2013.
- Meningitis Research Foundation. UK Facts and Figures (webpage). Available at: www.meningitis.org/facts Accessed April 2013.
- World Health Organization. Meningococcal meningitis. Fact sheet #141. November 2012 update. Available at: www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs141/en/ Accessed April 2013.
- Rosenstein NE, et al. Meningococcal disease. N Engl J Med 2001;344:1378-88;
- Meningitis UK. Bacterial meningitis. Available at: http://bitly.com/RDEqhF Accessed April 2013.
- Meningitis Research Foundation. Meningitis symptoms. Available at: www.meningitis.org/symptoms Accessed Apr 2013.
Today is World Meningitis Day. To help spread awareness of this, and where to go for more information on this disease, that I am sure terrifies you as much as it does me, I am posting this press release sent to me by Ruder Finn PR agency, who work on behalf of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics Limited, and who are supporting this campaign