Meningitis Is a Sudden Killer So Make Sure You're Vaccinated; This Week Marks Meningitis Awareness Week. Health Correspondent Julia McWatt Looks at What Symptoms to Watch out for and Ways to Protect Yourself

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Meningitis Is a Sudden Killer So Make Sure You're Vaccinated; This Week Marks Meningitis Awareness Week. Health Correspondent Julia McWatt Looks at What Symptoms to Watch out for and Ways to Protect Yourself


Byline: Julia McWatt

THE Meningitis Research Foundation estimates that meningitis and septicaemia affect around ten people in the UK and Ireland every day.

They are deadly diseases that can strike without warning, killing one in ten, and leaving a quarter of survivors with life altering after-effects ranging from deafness and brain damage to loss of limbs. Children under five and students are most at risk, but the diseases can strike at any age and not all forms are currently covered by vaccines.

Meningitis can be either viral of bacterial and there are around 3,500 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia each year.

Viral meningitis can be unpleasant but it is almost never life-threatening and most people will soon make a full recovery.

Bacterial meningitis is more serious and most cases are caused by meningococcal bacteria. These bacteria also cause septicaemia, a far more life-threatening form of the disease.

The Meningitis Research Foundation's Counting the Costs campaign shows that a severe case of meningitis can cost PS3m in a person's lifetime in social, medical and educational costs, and are encouraging people to make sure they have their vaccinations.

In the majority of cases, the type of meningitis is bacterial meningitis.

While viral meningitis can be nasty it is almost never life-threatening and most people will soon make a full recovery.

Meningococcal bacteria are common - about 10% of the population carry them in the back of the nose or throat. They are very fragile and do not survive outside the human body, so they are not easily transmitted.

The bacteria are passed from person to person and spread by close contact with people, such as living with them. They cannot be caught from the air, clothes, bedding or from handling toys, cutlery or furniture.

Most of us at some time in our life might carry the bacteria in the back of our nose or throat and the chance of being a carrier rises in our lifetime. Between 15-25 years old, there is a 25% chance of being a carrier. Many of us do not get ill, we just pass it around until it gets to someone more susceptible.

Most cases of meningitis and septicaemia are individual cases that are not linked, but outbreaks can be quite frightening.

The early stages of meningitis can look just like any other illness and it is often hard to tell the difference. You may start to feel feverish and under the weather and you might seem irritable. You usually get a fever and a headache. You may also get other symptoms like cold hands and feet and limb pain.

The classic symptom is a rash that does not fade under the pressure of a glass. The rash will often spread quite rapidly and the spots become bigger as they spread. Other symptoms include having a stiff neck and a dislike of bright lights.

Bacterial meningitis needs urgent treatment with antibiotics and rapid admission to hospital. While in hospital, other treatments, procedures and investigations will be carried out depending on the patient's condition. …

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