We have all heard about the devastating effects of Meningitis but what is meningitis? How can we spot it? what can we do to prevent it and what are the vaccinations avaliable?
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Here Dr Bella, talks us through the disease.
Meningitis is a rare but very serious, life-threatening infection of the lining of the brain. It can cause sudden illness that needs prompt diagnosis and treatment and if left untreated can cause severe brain damage, blood poisoning and in some cases can be fatal.
If the person survives they can be left with life-changing disabilities, loss of limbs or brain damage. Meningitis is something that we dread both as parents and as doctors.
Meningitis can strike rapidly and it is important to be vigilant and trust your instincts.
- Your child may have a fever, or be vomiting, they may be drowsy, confused or irritable.
- They may complain of a severe headache, pain when looking at light, a stiff neck or may have a seizure.
- Look at their skin for signs of blotchiness or a rash, feels their hands and feet as these are often very cold despite their fever.
- Babies may be 'out if sorts', not settling, crying more than normal and their cry can sound 'different from normal'. They may be grunting or breathing rapidly.
In all cases the patient will continue to get worse and urgent medical attention is needed.
A really good website for a summary of possible signs and symptoms is Meningitis Now
How do we prevent it?
Already, as part of the NHS vaccination programme, we are immunised against the common strains of Meningitis A, C and Y. We have recently seen an increase in other life-threatening strains B and W. In response to this, since this Summer (2015) there are now 2 new potentially life-saving vaccines available to prevent these nasty strains of meningitis (B and W) and these have been incorporated into the NHS Immunisation schedule, which can be found here..
1. Meningitis B – Babies
Since 1st Sept 2015 all babies are now vaccinated against Meningitis B as part of the NHS vaccination program and receive vaccines at 2 months, 4 months and 12-13 months. They are eligible have this vaccine up until the age of 2 years old. Book to see your practice nurse at your GP surgery for this vaccine.
2. Meningitis ACWY – Teenagers and young people
It is so important that all 17-18 year olds should have the Men ACWY vaccination. Since 2015 this vaccine now includes Men W which is one of the most aggressive and life threatening forms of meningitis. This group includes all school leavers, new University freshers and anyone who has missed the vaccine from 17 up to aged 25. Book to see your practice nurse at your GP surgery for a vaccine.
It is so important to have these vaccines to avoid these rare but serious infections. It is important to mention that there are other rare strains of meningitis that are not included in these vaccines, so if you are concerned that your child or family member is unwell then you need to seek medical attention.