The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called immunisations “the greatest public health achievement of the 20th century”. A child born today need not fear paralysis from polio; cervical cancer from human papillomavirus; or mental abnormalities and profound hearing loss from Haemophilus influenzae b meningitis, among other, often life-threatening infections.
Despite vaccines being available, there are still thousands of cases in the UK every year.

Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal infection has always been the leading cause of meningitis in the UK. Six different kinds – serogroups A, B, C, W, X, and Y cause the majority of cases of the disease. Overall, numbers of cases of meningococcal disease have fallen in the UK in recent years. Although babies, children and young people routinely receive vaccines that protect against some types of meningitis and septicaemia, most over-55s aren’t likely to have had these vaccines.

As a Practice Nurse for over twenty years, I thankfully only witnessed meningitis in a small number of cases. I will, however, never forget how important it was to identify the symptoms quickly and send them for urgent treatment. I also remember the distress that the disease caused to both the patient and their family vividly.

A new survey carried out for Meningitis Now reveals that 95% of people aged over 55 do not consider themselves to be at risk from deadly meningitis and septicaemia, despite cases of the disease being more prevalent in older adults. The study also highlights the worrying fact that three-quarters of this group are not confident in recognising the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to flu, a stomach bug or a hangover and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold hands and feet. More specific signs and symptoms include drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash that doesn’t fade under pressure.

Meningitis Now are using these findings as part of a new national awareness campaign – Adults Get It Too – to inform and educate adults of the risks they face and the actions they can take to look after themselves and their loved ones.

I recently attended the launch of the campaign at a reception for MPs at the House of Commons. With regards to the results of the survey, Chief Executive, Dr Tom Nutt, commented:

“These findings are a cause for concern. The popular misconception is that meningitis and septicaemia only affect babies and young children. Many in this older age group may be more concerned about their children or grandchildren."

The launch recalled some very moving stories from older people who had been affected by meningitis. If meningitis is suspected, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Someone with bacterial meningitis and septicaemia needs rapid admission to hospital and urgent treatment with antibiotics.

At Anthony Collins Solicitors we welcome and support the campaign by Meningitis Now to raise awareness of the disease. If medical professionals fail to recognise the symptoms of meningitis quickly, then the effects are life-changing and sometimes fatal.  

For more information

For further information or if you or a family member have suffered an injury because of meningitis and have concerns about the standard of medical care provided, please contact Stephanie Moustache or Sarah Huntbach who will be happy to speak to you on an initial free, no-obligation basis.