New tools to help parents to spot meningitis ahead of expected rise in the disease over Christmas

12 Dec 2018
New tools to help parents to spot meningitis ahead of expected rise in the disease over Christmas

The charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is warning that cases of meningitis and septicaemia/sepsis are expected to rise over the winter months and Christmas is often peak season for the disease.

Rapid identification and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia provides the best chance of survival. However it’s almost impossible to identify it in the early stages, because the early symptoms resemble many other less serious illnesses, such as flu.

This winter, MRF is making a new traffic light symptoms resource available for parents to help them decide what course of action they should take if their child is unwell, and most importantly, when to get urgent medical help. 

On average in England there are over three times as many cases of the most common cause of bacterial meningitis (meningococcal) in January compared with September.

This is thought to be due to the bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to co-infection with flu virus, and because the bacteria can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity. Viral infections like the common cold may also help spread the infection.

"Even a doctor may not be able to diagnose meningitis in the early stages, which is why it’s so important for everyone to know the symptoms and for parents to trust their instincts." Vinny Smith, MRF

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of MRF said, “Sadly we see even more individuals and families affected by meningitis and septicaemia during winter, particulalry around Christmas, but it can be difficult to recognise at first. Even a doctor may not be able to diagnose it in the early stages, which is why it’s so important for everyone to know the symptoms and for parents to trust their instincts.”

National guidelines recommend doctors give parents ‘safety netting’ information if sending home a child with suspected infection - which includes information about meningitis and septicaemia and tells parents to return for medical help if their child’s symptoms do not improve or are getting worse - but a report from MRF shows this does not always happen. MRF is calling for an audit of national guidelines to find out how often safety netting information is provided to parents of unwell children.

Sign the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228720.

Vinny continued, “If someone is ill and getting rapidly worse, parents should not be afraid to seek urgent medical help - even if they’ve already been seen by a doctor that same day. Our new resource helps everyone decide when someone could be seriously unwell.

“The best way to prevent meningitis and septicaemia is vaccination. We encourage all parents to take up the offer of the routine vaccines that are included in the immunisation schedule for their children.”

Meningitis and septicaemia are deadly diseases that strike without warning. One in ten people affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness or hearing loss.

The vast majority of people who come into contact with the bacteria do not become unwell or develop any symptoms but occasionally the bacteria invade the body and cause serious illness.

The symptoms of meningitis
The symptoms of meningitis
Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours - know the symptoms.
Media contact
Sam Williams - Media Relations Manager
Tel: 07875 498047
Share this

Ways you can help

Please do what you can today and help save and change the lives of thousands