Parents warned over meningitis

With millions of children and students preparing to return to school in England and Wales, and with children already back in Scotland, doctors and campaigners are warning parents of a spike in cases of the potentially killer disease.

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Effects of Meningitis

The bacteria only rarely give rise to meningococcal disease, but when they do infection spreads rapidly and is fatal in about 10% of cases. If disease is diagnosed early and treated promptly most people make a full recovery.

About 1 in 8 people who recover experience some long term effects. These can include headaches, stiffness in the joints, epileptic fits, deafness and learning difficulties.

Health worker preparing a meningitis vaccination Credit: Press Association

Who gets Meningitis ?

In 2009/10 there were 896 cases of meningococcal disease confirmed in England and Wales. 785 of these cases were confirmed as Group B and only 17 as Group C. It's not known why some people became ill while others remained symptomless 'carriers' of the bacteria.

  • Disease can occur at any age. However, most cases occur in children under four.
  • The next highest incidence is recorded for teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age
  • Most cases occur without any connection to other cases (sporadic cases), sometimes two or more cases are connected by those affected having close contact.

How is Meningitis spread ?

Meningococcal disease is not highly infectious. The bacteria are passed by close contact, so family members of a case and others who have close contacts with a case may be spreading the same germs.

Close contact in residential accommodation, such as student halls of residence, and schools can also give the opportunity for the spread of infection. As the bacteria cannot survive for long outside the human body, infection cannot be caught from water supplies, swimming pools, or buildings.

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