Support during COVID-19 (Updated for the Omicron variant)

14 Dec 2021
Support during COVID-19 (Updated for the Omicron variant)
Meningitis Research Foundation has over 30 years of experience working with people affected by infectious diseases. While coronavirus (COVID-19) is very different to the viruses and bacteria that normally cause meningitis, some of the worries, concerns and outcomes people are facing are similar.

When there are cases or outbreaks of meningitis, we support people by answering their questions, helping them with health anxiety, and signposting to services when someone is unwell. We support people who have lost a loved one, provide evidence-based information to combat misinformation and help people feel less isolated.

While our resources are written with meningitis in mind, many of them may be helpful for anyone dealing with COVID-19.
Useful blogs we have written:
Advice on what to do if a child is unwell:
If you are worried about COVID-19 symptoms you should visit the NHS pages in the UK for advice on what to do (or WHO has very useful information which is applicable outside of the UK).

However, you may have a child who is sick for other reasons and want to know whether you should visit a doctor or hospital. There have been reports of people with very sick children delaying getting medical help because they are worried about getting COVID-19 or overburdening health workers. It can be dangerous to delay seeking help for those who are seriously ill. It is vitally important to seek medical help for a child who is seriously ill.

Our safety netting resource hub helps you identify when to take urgent action when a child is ill: https://www.meningitis.org/meningitis/safety-netting-resources-hub
Coping with bereavement: 
When someone you love dies suddenly, it is devastating. Nothing can prepare you for the emotions that follow and the world can seem a cruel and uncaring place.

Everyone grieves in their own way, but grieving, however we do it, is a necessary process.
 
This page explains some of the things bereaved people may experience and some things that people have found helpful: https://www.meningitis.org/get-support/bereavement

Meningitis and COVID-19 (including the new Omicron variant) - Your questions

A.

There have been around 270 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world as of December 2021, and in a minority of hospitalised patients, neurological disease is a feature of their illness. However, there have so far only been a few case reports of people ill with coronavirus also having meningitis. Many viruses can cause viral meningitis (even flu occasionally causes viral meningitis) and although rare, this is also true of COVID-19.

Currently [10/12/2021] there is no evidence to suggest that the Omicron variant of COVID-19, or indeed any other variant recorded so far, poses any greater risk of causing meningitis.  

A.
Some viral infections can also predispose people to infection with bacteria, including those that can cause meningitis (such as the pneumococcus). This risk has been shown after flu infection although it is not common. Although there have been a handful of reports of bacterial meningitis during or shortly after COVID-19 infection, there does not appear to be any causal association. Indeed, cases of meningitis have been much less common in many countries around the world during the pandemic, because social distancing measures that suppress COVID-19 transmission also reduce circulation of the germs that cause meningitis.

However, it is important to make sure that you and your family are up to date for any vaccines you are eligible for, because it is very likely that meningitis will rebound as social distancing measures ease. It is also important to be vigilant for the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, as winter is peak time for meningitis in the UK and across the Northern hemisphere. 

It is really important that individuals and parents of young children ensure that they get their immunisations on time. GP surgeries have clear guidance to prioritise routine immunisations, so if an immunisation has been delayed you should request a rescheduled immunisation appointment as soon as possible. If you miss an appointment because you or a member of your household is unwell and self-isolating, you should reschedule the appointment as soon as possible.
A.
Although no research into this specific area had been undertaken, there is currently no evidence and no convincing rationale to suggest that people are more likely to get COVID-19 or be seriously ill with it if they have had meningitis. As far as we know at this time, this also applies to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.  We are monitoring the situation closely and, if anything changes, we will alert the public.

There are certain well-known factors, such as immunodeficiency, that increase the likelihood of many infections, including both meningitis and COVID-19. Among several known factors that increase risk from COVID-19 infection, a very few, such as epilepsy and kidney disease, can result from severe cases of meningitis or meningococcal septicaemia. You can check the NHS website here for a list of conditions that increase a person’s risk from COVID-19.
 
A.
Emergency Departments and GPs may be busy this winter, and the Omicron variant may cause heightened concern about visiting hospitals. However, the advice doesn’t change for meningitis and septicaemia – if you have symptoms of meningitis or septicaemia/sepsis or are getting rapidly worse, trust your instincts and seek medical help straightaway.
 
There have been reports of people with very sick children delaying getting medical help because they are worried about getting COVID-19 or overburdening health workers. It can be dangerous to delay seeking help for those who are seriously ill. It is vitally important to seek medical help for a child who is seriously ill.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has a useful poster to guide parents on what to do if their child is ill during the coronavirus pandemic
We may be out of office due to coronavirus, but you can still get in contact with us

The MRF Membership and Support team are here for you for any questions you might have about meningitis and septicaemia and their effects on you or your family and friends.

You don’t need to face meningitis and sepsis alone
MRF Chief Executive Vinny Smith explains how we're going to defeat meningitis by 2030.
Media contact
Holly Edwards - Communications Manager
Tel: 07875 498 047
Share this