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Meningitis vaccine trialled

by Andrew Pate

Experts are trialling a new meningitis vaccine before the government decides if it will be used here in the U.K.

Meningitis can have a devastating effect, with possible brain damage and the loss of limbs. Until recently there hasn't been a way of preventing Meningitis B.

Around 2,000 people contract the infection each year. Many of them children under five or babies. And one in 10 who survive have major physical or neurological disabilities.

Andrew Pate reports.

Meningitis Symptoms (Source:NHS)

-a very high fever with cold hands and feet

-they may feel agitated but not want to be touched

-they may cry continuously

-some children can become very sleepy and it may be difficult to wake them up

-they may appear confused and unresponsive

-severe headache

-vomiting

-high temperature(fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or over

-stiff neck

-sensitivity to light

-rapid breathing

-a general feeling of being unwell

-a distinctive skin rash (although not everyone will have this)

Stockton parents champion 'Helen's Walk' for meningitis

A family from Stockton-on-Tees who lost their daughter to meningitis want people to pull on their walking boots for an annual event to raise funds for a charity tackling the disease.

Terry and Sue Laing are backing Meningitis UK's annual Big Stroll North East, previously known as Helen's Walk.

The couple lost their 24-year-old daughter Helen to meningitis aged 24, in 2001.

From the age of 14, Helen had wanted to be a nursery nurse and qualified in January 2001, four months before she succumbed to meningococcal septicaemia.

"The walk helps us come to terms with what happened and is always a great way to raise awareness of the disease.

"Everyone's support for Helen's Walk over the years was unbelievable and surpassed our wildest expectations. Although we no longer run it, we always support the walk, which is growing every year.

"We hope even more people get behind it and put on their walking boots to battle the disease that tragically took our Helen."

– Terry Laing, Helen's father

In Helen's honour, the couple support Meningitis UK and handed control of the walk to the charity after setting it up and raising £90,000.

The 5.5-mile circular Big Stroll takes place on May 12 and starts in Osmotherley.

To sign up, to donate or for more information, call 0117 303 33 47 or click here.

"We again thank Terry and Sue for helping to support the walk - without their help, it would not be as successful as it is.

"What happened to Helen illustrates just how cruel meningitis and its associated disease can be - striking anyone, of any age, at any time.

"The walk is a great way to keep fit, see some truly wonderful sights and all the while battle meningitis, which is notoriously difficult to diagnose and can kill in only hours.

"For all these reason, this is why our main focus is to fund pioneering research to eradicate the disease to protect all future generations."

– Steve Dayman, Meningitis UK founder

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Meningitis: The symptoms

Symptoms of the disease are often mistaken to be those of flu
Symptoms of the disease are often mistaken to be those of flu Credit: Meningitis UK

People are being urged to look out more closely for the symptoms of meningitis during the winter months.

There is often a rise in the number of cases of meningitis over the winter period, and symptoms may be mistaken for those of the flu bug.

Symptoms of meningitis, and its blood poisoning form septacaemia, include:

  • Similar to cold and flu but gets worse very quickly

  • Stiff neck

  • Bad headache and temperature

  • Dislike of light

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Rash

New vaccine could be out next year

The disease is a "big killer" in the UK
The disease is a "big killer" in the UK Credit: Meningitis UK

Meningitis B is a "big killer in the UK", according to a specialist from St Mary's Hospital in London.

Professor Simon Kroll has spoken about the possibility of a new vaccine against Meningitis B being available within the year.

Scientists have been working on the vaccine for more than a decade and preliminary approval has just been granted for the jab.

Winter warning from UK's meningitis charities

Meningitis charities across the UK are warning people, and particularly parents, to look out for the symptoms of the disease over the winter months.

Three charities are advising people about what they should be looking out for and the steps to take if they do think they have symptoms of the disease.

Cases of meningitis are known to rise over the winter months, as does the blood poisoning form of the disease - septicaemia.

Meningitis can kill within 24 hours and so early recognition of the symptoms is extremely important.

At this time of year, the symptoms of meningitis are often mistaken for flu, so people are being encouraged to seek medical attention if they think that they may have symptoms of the disease.

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