Cases of meningitis and septicaemia are expected to rise over the winter and a leading charity is urging greater awareness of the symptoms.
The Meningitis Research Foundation has estimated that there have been on average around 3,200 cases of meningitis and septicaemia annually in the UK; one in 10 people affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects including serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness or hearing loss.
On average there are more than three times as many cases of the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in January compared with September.
Bacteria are most commonly found living harmlessly in the noses and throats of adolescents and young adults but can be passed on to others through social contact.
Recent research has shown that adolescents are morel likely to have more of these bacteria in winter.
Rapid identification and treatment is vital but early symptoms such as fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell can often be missed as they resemble many other less serious illnesses.
Around half of children with the most common cause of bacterial meningitis are turned away by their GP at first visit.
Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion and MRF is emphasising that it is important for parents to trust their instincts and return to a health professional quickly if their child’s symptoms progress.
Mary Millar, Scotland manager, said: “Vaccines are already proving their worth in controlling some forms of meningitis and septicaemia but they don’t protect against all strains. Over the festive period it’s more important than ever for families to be vigilant and know the symptoms.”
The charity is running a festive appeal to help combat the disease. Visit www.meningitis.org/tistheseason to download the mince pie morning pack to raise funds to fund research and support affected individuals and families. Further information about symptoms can be found at www.meningitis.org/symptoms or by calling the Freefone helpline on 080 8800 3344.