World Meningitis Day – April 24, 2010

World Meningitis Day – April 24, 2010

21 April 2010

A HARD-HITTING warning about the dangers of killer disease meningitis has been issued to coincide with World Meningitis Day (APRIL 24).

The three leading UK meningitis charities have united to send a clear message to the public – make sure all children are vaccinated and that the full range of symptoms are known because the disease can kill in under four hours.

Meningitis Research Foundation, Meningitis UK and the Meningitis Trust say the brain bug kills more under-fives than any other infectious disease in this country and up to 500,000 people living in the UK have had either viral or bacterial meningitis.

Around 300 people die from the disease each year and six families a week face the devastation of losing a loved-one.

The charities are all members of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO), which has organised World Meningitis Day on April 24 to increase public awareness.

A new pneumococcal vaccine, Prevenar 13, was introduced into the Childhood Immunisation Programme this month, protecting against 13 strains of the disease, compared to the previous vaccine which covered seven. This is in addition to the existing Hib and Meningitis C vaccines which have saved thousands of lives.

Menveo ®▼, a new vaccine licensed in March, protects against four strains of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia for those travelling to high-risk countries such as parts of Africa and Saudi Arabia, and may well have a wider use in the UK too.

Despite the success of these vaccines, the UK public surveillance agencies report that there are still around 3,000 cases of life-threatening bacterial meningitis and septicaemia every year.

And there is as yet no vaccine for Meningitis B, which is the most common strain in this country.

Chris Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “Meningitis and septicaemia are global killers, affecting thousands of people every year in the UK and millions more around the globe. There are now several vaccines that protect against these diseases so we need to improve global access to them; but there is still more work to be done. We strive to develop a Meningitis B vaccine, and to raise awareness of symptoms, so that treatment can be sought swiftly and effectively. This way we hope to stop more people dying or being left with life altering after effects.”

Steve Dayman, the Chief Executive of Meningitis UK who lost his son Spencer to the disease, said: “Great advances have been made in the past few decades and World Meningitis Day is an opportunity to remind people of the importance of vaccine uptake and symptoms recognition.

“Together we can help raise awareness, share knowledge and fund research in the hope that one day families will be spared the heartache of losing a loved one to this devastating disease.”

Hundreds of people in this country die from bacterial meningitis each year and those who survive are often left with after-effects including deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, limb loss (where septicaemia is involved), learning difficulties, memory issues and behavioural problems.

Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, added: “For every individual across the UK who has had meningitis, there are many more who are living with the impact of the disease right now, and for many, their lives have changed forever.

“We hope World Meningitis Day will show them that they are not alone and that meningitis organisations across the world are working together to help save lives and rebuild futures.”

Meningitis does not discriminate and can affect anyone, of any age, at any time.

Those most at risk are children under the age of five, those aged between 15 and 19, and people over 65.

There are also believed to be more than 6,000 cases of viral meningitis in the UK every year. Viral meningitis is rarely life-threatening, although it can leave people with debilitating after-effects.

It is hoped people around the globe will join hands to mark World Meningitis Day and draw attention to the disease and its life changing after-effects.

In the UK this will be through a virtual joining of hands on

- ENDS -

Notes to editors:
Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. These bacteria usually live harmlessly in the back of the throat. Most of us will carry them at some stage in our lives without becoming ill, and they help us build up natural immunity (protection against the disease). Occasionally, these germs get past the body’s defences and cause infection.

Symptoms of meningitis:
Fever; vomiting; severe headache; rash (not present in all cases); stiff neck*; dislike of bright lights*; very sleepy/vacant/difficult to wake; confused/delirious; seizures (fits) may also be seen. (*Unusual in young children.)

Symptoms of septicaemia (blood poisoning form of the disease):
Fever; vomiting; limb/joint/muscle pain (sometimes stomach pain/diarrhoea); pale or mottled skin; cold hands and feet; shivering; breathing fast/breathless; rash (anywhere on the body); very sleepy/vacant/difficult to wake; confused/delirious.
Other symptoms in babies include: tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot); refusing to feed; being irritable when picked up with a high pitched or moaning cry; a stiff body with jerky movements or else floppy and lifeless.

Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO)
The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations' mission is to assist member organisations to be sustainable, identifiable and influential sources for information and support services for those people affected by meningitis in their regions and united in their endeavours globally through their membership of COMO, which is committed to the elimination of meningitis and septicaemia.

CoMO was formed in 2004 and now has members in 19 countries across Europe, North and South America, Australia, the Philippines and Africa.

For more information visit the website

Meningitis Research Foundation
• Meningitis Research Foundation is currently funding 24 research projects into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia. The Foundation has spent £15.6 million on research since its inception in 1989 on 128 research projects.
• Meningitis Research Foundation operates a Freefone 24 hour helpline – 080 8800 3344 - providing information on meningitis and septicaemia to the general public and health professionals.

For more information contact Camilla Bond on 01454 280406/ 07711 057 875 (out of hours) or visit the website

Sam Williams
Media Relations Manager

Hi, I’m Sam and I’m MRF's PR Manager.

If you want to know more about this story call me on 0333 405 626251, out of office hours on 07875 498047 or email me