UK is Told 'Don't Wait for a Rash'

Dec 07, 2010, 20:00 ET from Meningitis Trust

LONDON, December 8, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Up to 34 million adults in the UK are risking death with the mistaken belief that the main symptom of meningitis is a rash.

Believing the rash is the only symptom is costing lives; as the rash, that does not fade under pressure, (a sign of blood poisoning) does not always appear. When it does it can be one of the last symptoms to be displayed, often too late.

National charity the Meningitis Trust is launching a campaign today to stop this deadly misconception.

Knowing and recognizing the other signs and symptoms of meningitis and getting medical help quickly is the only way to reduce the devastating impact meningitis can have. Symptoms can appear quickly and rapid deterioration is sign of a medical emergency.

Meningitis can start with 'flu like' symptoms; fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain. Other symptoms of meningitis can include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike bright lights and seizures. In babies symptoms are often floppy and unresponsive, dislike being handled, rapid breathing, moaning cry and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).

Research by the Meningitis Trust has indicated that 71% of people immediately think of a rash when identifying meningitis - it is so worried by the findings that it is hammering home the message 'Don't Wait for a Rash'.

Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the charity, says; "By thinking meningitis is just a rash, people are dying.

"It is time the public takes notice and makes a fight against this terrifying deadly disease."

The charity is also frightened to find that up to 5.3 million adults in the UK cannot name a single sign or symptom; causing serious concern to health professionals.

Pete Rowlands from the East Riding of Yorkshire knows only too well the devastation that the disease brings after his 16 year-old son, Gareth, died of meningitis whilst at boarding school in May 2003.

From an early age Gareth enjoyed any type of sport. The day before his death he had phoned home as normal saying he had just completed his AS Level Sports Studies exam and was confident that he had done well enough to secure a pass (and he did).

"Gareth told us that he had just got back to his room from the gym and felt as if he had burst a blood vessel behind his eye from working out with weights. He also thought that he had a bout of flu coming on as he had a headache. Gareth tragically was found dead in his bedroom later that evening," said Pete who is backing the campaign.

"Carrying my son's coffin into a church is the most difficult thing I have had to do and is something a parent should never have to undertake. Meningitis is a disease which strikes in an instant. The symptoms are so similar to the flu that it's not always spotted in time. The famous rash that everyone thinks of does not always appear.

From the bottom of my heart I would urge everyone to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms - as there isn't a vaccine for every type of meningitis, we are not fully protected. Knowledge is your protection."

Lifesaving information is provided free by the Meningitis Trust by calling its freephone 24-hour nurse-staffed helpline on 0800-028-18-28 and requesting information or a signs and symptoms card, downloading the free iPhone app or visiting http://www.meningitis-trust.org. Every Focus DIY store throughout the country is supporting this important campaign and will have signs and symptoms cards at information points.

Research was carried out by fast.MAP in May 2010. The sample was selected from fast.MAP's Consumer Voice panel to be representative of the UK population (Adults 18+) of 1,309 people..

For further information please visit the website at http://www.meningitis-trust.org

About the Meningitis Trust

The Meningitis Trust started in 1986 and, since then, has supported people as they face life after meningitis. It provides the widest range of free services and community-based support for people affected by meningitis across the UK, and raises awareness of the disease and funds research into its long-term impact.

The services give vital support to, and improve the lives of, those who are living with the life-changing impact of the disease every day and include:

    - Freephone 24-hour nurse staffed helpline - 0800-028-18-28
    - Counselling and bereavement support
    - Home visits
    - Art therapy
    - Family days
    - Financial grants (to fund specialist equipment; respite care;
      therapeutic activities; special training; funeral and headstones;
      travel and accommodation costs
    - Community based support

About meningitis

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It can strike quickly and kill within hours - its impact can last a lifetime. Each year in the UK there are about 2,500 cases of bacterial meningitis and an estimated 5,000 cases of viral. Up to 500,000 people in the UK have had meningitis. Those most at risk are children under five, young people (15 to 24) and adults over 55.

For more information visit the website http://www.meningitis-trust.org, call 0800-028-18-28 or download its free app at http://www.meningitisapp.co.uk.

SOURCE Meningitis Trust