Meningitis Research Foundation is urging all parents and teachers to be extra vigilant about meningitis as children return to school. Cases of swine flu are expected to rise again as the school term gets underway and winter approaches. MRF is warning people how easy it is to mistake the early symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia for flu symptoms – there have already been at least five deaths in the UK from meningitis in people originally thought to have swine flu. It is very important not to be complacent about these potentially serious diseases, and to learn to recognise the early symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.
What’s more, the swine flu pandemic may lead to a rise in cases of meningitis in the Ireland this year, as has happened following flu epidemics in the past. Children and teenagers are already more at risk of meningitis and septicaemia than adults, and cases tend to increase in the autumn and winter.
People who feel unwell with fever, headache and flu-like symptoms are most likely to have flu, but it is important to know the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia in case the illness gets worse. Delayed diagnosis of meningitis coupled with the rapid progress of the disease can be fatal. Meningitis can kill in hours.
MRF’s Chief Executive, Christopher Head commented: “If swine flu cases increase, there could be more cases of meningitis and septicaemia this winter. Spotting meningitis symptoms early can save lives. Specifically look out for the Red Flag early warning symptoms: Cold hands and feet, severe pain in the limbs and joints, and pale or mottled skin, as well as the ‘classic’ symptoms like a non-blanching rash, stiff neck and dislike of bright lights. It is important not to be deterred from seeking medical help if you are worried about a child who is ill.”
If you are concerned simply call MRF’s FREEfone 24-hour helpline – 1800 41 33 44. Ask for your free symptoms leaflet. Trained staff and nurses are on-hand to talk through any aspect of meningitis and septicaemia. We also provide free symptoms cards and leaflets for schools and places of work, which can be ordered through the helpline or by visiting our website www.meningitis.org.