03:18am Friday 18 August 2017

Students, Do You Know The Signs Of Meningitis?

Students, Do You Know The Signs Of Meningitis?

Meningitis is a potentially life-threatening disease and during Meningitis Awareness Week (17-23 September) the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding students to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

Teenagers and young adults (14–24 years old) are more at risk, especially when away from home with no parents around to look after them.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord, while septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease. These two conditions have different sets of symptoms and may occur separately or together so it is important to be aware of both.

Amy-Ruth Dunlop from Glengormley, who is starting university in Coleraine this week, is more aware than most of the signs and symptoms of meningitis after experiencing it in her early teens.

Her mother Madeline explains: “In January 2007 Amy-Ruth was very unwell and at the beginning I just put it down to a flu bug; she had a temperature, a sore head, was vomiting and just wasn’t herself. I put her to bed and kept a close eye on her, but as the evening passed she became worse and I knew something was seriously wrong. 

“I checked Amy-Ruth’s skin and I found a small, dark rash on her ankles that didn’t fade when I placed a glass on it. I immediately phoned my friend who is a GP, she gave Amy-Ruth an injection which, to this day, is what saved my daughter’s life. We took Amy-Ruth to hospital and within a matter of hours she had fallen unconscious. It all happened so fast.

“She was in a coma for several days and it was a very trying and traumatic time for us all. After a harrowing seven days and intensive antibiotics and treatment, Amy-Ruth eventually pulled through.”

Amy-Ruth was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia and viral meningitis. She made a full recovery and she now actively promotes awareness of the infection through the Meningitis Trust charity.

Amy, who is now 18 years old, explained: “I was 13 when I had meningitis and was lucky that I had my mum to keep an eye on me, but when I start university I will be living in student accommodation. Through my own experience, I know how quickly meningitis can take hold and the importance of getting medical help.

“I have all my friends well warned about the signs and symptoms of meningitis and if any of them become unwell I will be keeping a close eye on them as I hope they will on me.”

Meningitis is an infection that can be fatal, so it is absolutely vital that all students know the symptoms. They can appear in any order and may include:

•           A high temperature and /or vomiting;

•           Severe headache;

•           A stiff neck, aching limbs and joints;

•           A dislike of bright lights;

•           Drowsiness and /or purple rash, which does not fade when pressed.

Not everyone will have all these symptoms and if they worsen, get medical help immediately.

Dr Maureen McCartney, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, said: “When away from home with no parents around to keep an eye on your wellbeing it is easy to neglect your own health.  Even if you are generally fit and healthy and think it is just a hangover or flu, check for the symptoms, don’t just leave it, and tell someone if you feel unwell.  Also, keep an eye on friends and housemates, if they are unwell keep checking on them – don’t just assume they will be ok.

“Coming into the colder months there is a tendency to see more cases of meningococcal meningitis, which is why it is particularly important for everyone to familiarise themselves with the signs and symptoms.

“Symptoms of meningitis are often non-specific and easily mistaken for other illnesses such as flu, but the disease can come on very quickly and it is important to seek urgent medical attention if you think meningitis is occurring.

“A very important sign is a rash which does not disappear if a glass is pressed against it. If someone develops this then they need urgent medical attention. It can appear anywhere on the body so it is important to check under clothing. However, the rash doesn’t always appear, so don’t wait for it before seeking medical attention if other signs are present.”

Further information can be found on www.meningitisuk.org

 

Notes to the editor

Meningitis symptoms in babies are:

•           high temperature, fever, possibly with cold hands and feet;

•           vomiting or refusing feeds;

•           baby may be floppy, dislike being handled;

•           high-pitched moaning, whimpering cry;

•           difficult to wake or lethargic;

•           non-blanching rash (doesn’t disappear when a glass is pressed against it).

 

Meningitis symptoms in adults and children are:

•           high temperature, fever, possibly with cold hands and feet;

•           vomiting;

•           neck stiffness;

•           non-blanching rash (doesn’t disappear when a glass is pressed against it);

•           drowsiness;

•           dislike of bright lights;

•           joint or muscle pain;

•           fits.

 Meningitis is the inflammation of the linings of the brain and spinal cord, while septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease. These two conditions have different sets of symptoms and may occur separately or together. Additionally, they may be caused by a variety of different organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. When caused by meningococcal bacteria, these two conditions together are known as meningococcal disease.


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