Winter Awareness

Cases of meningitis typically rise in colder months. Be winter aware and know the signs and symptoms of deadly meningitis.

Cases of meningitis, which can kill or seriously disable in a matter of hours, are normally at their highest during the winter season in the UK and Ireland.

The winter of 2020 saw a sharp fall in the number of bacterial meningitis cases reported, largely due to social distancing measures which prevented the spread of meningitis-causing bacteria among people. However, as social distancing measures have been signficantly reduced this winter, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of deadly meningitis.

The bacteria which causes meningitis is passed between people by close contact. In winter, when people gather together in closed indoor spaces, there is more opportunity for the bacteria to pass between people and cause serious illness. Mixing in indoor spaces was significantly reduced in winter 2020, due to social distancing.

With social distancing measures reduced this winter, it is difficult to predict what will happen. However, with meningitis bacteria potentially circulating alongside Covid-19 and the usual cold and flu viruses, pressure on health services is anticipated. There are things we can all do to be winter aware, and help to minimise the risk. 

Winter awareness toolkit

Ensure vaccines are up to date

About vaccines

Know the signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms

Watch the video below

Contact our team with questions or concerns

Help and support

Meningitis & me

Over winter many of us will unfortunately catch a cold or even the flu. By suppressing our immune system, the flu may play a part in increasing our risk of getting meningitis. Research has also suggested that co-infection with wintertime respiratory viruses (such as the common cold) can also increase our risk, by enabling the bacteria to invade the body via the back of our nose and throat.

What’s more, as the temperature drops the bacteria are able to spread more rapidly as people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity, particularly through coughing, sneezing, and kissing. This risk becomes even more pronounced when considering that many of us are likely to be infected with wintertime viruses.

Click here to find out more.


Anyone can get meningitis or septicaemia, but various factors can increase the risk:

  • Age – In general, young children are at the highest risk of getting bacterial meningitis and septicaemia but other age groups can also be vulnerable to specific types
  • Geography and environment - Some countries have higher rates of meningitis and septicaemia. There is also evidence that mass gatherings and exposure to smoke, for example, can make people more susceptible to certain causes of meningitis and septicaemia
  • Medical conditions - like problems with the immune system can increase risk
  • Contact with a case -  cases of meningitis are usually isolated, but in some situations people who have been in close contact with someone who is ill with bacterial meningitis may be at increased risk of disease
Click here to find out more.

The most effective thing you can do to protect you and your children from meningitis is to get immunised. 

  • There are safe and effective vaccines available that that protect against the most common causes of life-threatening bacterial meningitis and septicaemia (meningococcal, pneumococcal and Hib)
  • These vaccines have reduced the number of cases throughout the world
  • Not all causes of meningitis and septicaemia are vaccine preventable so being able to recognise the symptoms is vital
Click here to find out more.
Awareness really does save lives. Whatever you can do to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis could save a life. You can save our symptoms image at the top of this page and share it your social media channels, or write/design your own post and send people to to find out more.

If you have experienced meningitis personally, whether in yourself or a loved one, telling your story can be an effective and powerful way to raise awareness. Click here to submit your story to our Book of Experience.

Lastly, we rely on your support to fund life-saving research and raise awareness of meningitis wherever it exists. We're determined to defeat meningitis, but we can't do that without your support. Click here to make a donation today.
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We take action that benefits people directly. including, training health professionals and providing support and information services.
Since the charity was founded in 1989, we have awarded 161 research grants. The total value of our investment in vital scientific research is over £19.1 million (€24.7 million).
We call for positive change as a united voice against meningitis and septicaemia, and a dedicated champion for those it affects.
Many of the after effects of meningitis aren't immediately obvious. In this blog, Support Manager Cat explains how we can help.
Ensure our support services are there for people affected by meningitis
Ensure our support services are there for people affected by meningitis
£5/€6/$6.60 per month ensures our support services are there for 10 people affected by meningitis
Cat Shehu
Support and membership manager

Hello, I'm Cat.

If you'd like to know more about this project, get in touch

Tel: 0333 405 6267