It’s Meningitis Awareness Week and Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is again raising awareness of this potentially fatal and life changing illness.
In this week of action, they are encouraging people to:
- KNOW the symptoms
- THINK meningitis
- ACT now
Who does this illness affect?
It can affect young and old alike but is particularly prevalent among young children, adolescents and the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
Why do you need to act fast?
Patients who fall ill can decline rapidly and die within 24 hours of onset or can suffer a sudden rapid deterioration of symptoms. Fast medical intervention with correct diagnosis and treatment can save lives.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are different for young and older patients and for different strains of the disease. Many people are aware of the possibility of a rash and dislike of bright light but these symptoms will not always be present and can include some of the following:
- Fever / vomiting
- Severe headache
- Limb / joint/muscle pain
- Cold hand / feet
- Mottled skin
- Stiff neck
- Lethargic / difficult to wake
- Fast breathing
Why think meningitis?
Meningitis in its early stages can present in a similar way to other illnesses. It is always important to rule out the illness. Public Awareness of the symptoms is important to educate people about when to seek help from a doctor as without early presentation the risk of death is higher.
Different types of Disease
The disease can be viral or bacterial.
Viral meningitis can be caused by a range of different viruses with the most common being enteroviruses. Antibiotics cannot be used to treat meningitis cased by virus and acyclovir is the only effective treatment. Most causes of viral meningitis cannot be prevented although vaccination of the underlying disease e.g. mumps or measles can be effective.
There are various strains of bacterial meningitis including A,B, C,W,X & Y. The illness arises from bacteria commonly found in the body but only a fraction of people who are exposed to the bacteria fall ill with the disease.
When bacteria break through the protective lining of the nose and throat and enter the bloodstream, if bacteria cross the blood brain barrier then this causes meningitis.
How is the illness diagnosed?
Diagnosis includes taking blood samples and doing a lumbar puncture (unless this is contraindicated) in order to identify the germ causing the illness.
Stabilising a patient by resuscitation fluids and antibiotics is often needed if acute illness is present.
In addition to this campaign in Meningitis Awareness Week, MRF continues to raise public awareness among freshers at University about being vaccinated for the MenW strain of the disease which is particularly prevalent among teenagers and young adults. Their campaign to #StoptheSpread has been underway since the summer.
At Clarke Willmott we have many years of experience in dealing with cases arising as a result of delayed diagnosis of meningitis. Contact one of our Clinical Negligence team for advice if you have been affected on 0800 316 8892.
Please sign up to MRF’s Thunderclap campaign to raise awareness on social media.