NATIONAL charity The Meningitis Trust is issuing a warning as children start back at school in September.
The end of next month is 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 five are most at risk for meningitis, teenagers and students are the second most ‘at risk’ group.
It is estimated 10 per cent of the population carry the organism which causes meningitis, but this increases to up to 30 per cent for teenagers and young people.
The risk of meningitis increases during the colder months as people spend more time indoors, closer to others, with germs 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, said, “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 per cent dead and 15 per cent 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.