Tuesday, 4th September 2012
Charity issues meningitis warning as children head back to school
National charity, the Meningitis Trust, is issuing a warning as children start back at school for the autumn/winter months. The end of September sees the start of the peak season for meningitis so the charity is urging all parents, students and teachers to be vigilant of the signs and symptoms.
While children under 5 are most 'at risk' for meningitis, teenagers and students are the second most 'at risk' group (aged 15 – 23 years). It is estimated that 10% of the population carry the organism which causes meningitis, but this increases to up to 30% for teenagers and young people.
The risk of meningitis increases during the colder months as people spend more time indoors, closer to others; meaning germs are spread more easily. Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease.
Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, says; "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. 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."
Every year 3,400 cases of bacterial 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 in minutes and kill within hours, so knowledge of the symptoms, vigilance and quick action is vital.
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 and confusion. 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.
The Trust has a free signs and symptoms application for the iPhone and Android, which can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/MTiPhone, as well as free credit card sized signs and symptoms cards. To get hold of one, simply call its freephone 24-hour nurse-led helpline on 0808 80 10 388, or visit the website at http://www.meningitis-trust.org
The Meningitis Trust started in 1986 and, since then, has supported people as they face life after meningitis. It provides the widest range of free services and community-based support for people affected by meningitis across the UK, and raises awareness of the disease and funds research into its long-term impact.
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