Meningitis warning as mother reveals son’s long-term after effects

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By Frazer Maude, news correspondent

A survey which coincides with Meningitis Awareness Week shows how little people know about the disease.

A leading meningitis charity is calling for better support for survivors of the disease.

The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is also campaigning for greater awareness of the condition and its long-term after effects.

The group commissioned a survey to coincide with Meningitis Awareness Week, which shows how little people know about the disease.

According to the report, nearly 55% of those surveyed didn’t know meningitis can cause blindness; nearly 65% didn’t know that depression or anxiety can be a result of meningitis; nearly 80% didn’t know about tinnitus; nearly 70% didn’t know about memory loss; and over 70% didn’t know meningitis can cause learning difficulties.

Vinny Smith, CEO of MRF, says: “It’s highlighting the fact that one in five people who get bacterial meningitis will go on to have life-long after effects.

“When we surveyed 2,000 people we found they did know people die of meningitis but they were unaware of the life-long impact it has – such as deafness.

“Meningitis also has a lot of after effects like anxiety, depression, and children needing educational support. We’re using the report today to say people need great support and services.”

Matthew Lessells was diagnosed with Meningitis B as a one-year-old.

He survived, but nine years on he still has problems with communicating and suffers from memory loss.

Mother Gemma says it was only with family support that she and her husband managed to cope.

“When Matthew was younger and couldn’t express himself, it used to make him so frustrated he would bang his head on the floor,” she says.

“It was a real strain on the whole family as we tried to find the right support and therapies to help him.

“Without my husband and Matthew’s sister, Hannah, I really couldn’t have coped. So I’m lucky.”

Mr Smith says: “What everybody wants is to prevent people getting meningitis in the first place, and that requires great vaccines, but it also requires great diagnosis and treatment and well-trained healthcare workers – and that doesn’t happen everywhere.

“So we’re calling to make sure in the UK and globally that’s a much more consistent picture of what people can expect to receive.”

The charity, along with Matthew and Gemma, are also calling for more new parents to be made fully aware of the impact of meningitis and the need to vaccinate their children.

The latest figures from Public Health England, January to March 2019, show the number of vaccinations received by babies under the age of one has declined.