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Insight

This Is Meningitis

Arti Shah
24/03/2016
Few people will have failed to miss the recent heart-breaking photographs of 2 year old Faye Burdett, released by her parents to raise awareness of the dangers of meningitis B, an infection which causes inflammation of the membranes which protect the brain and spinal cord.

Faye sadly died on Valentine's Day, 11 days after fighting the infection. The story was followed a series of pictures tweeted by Matt Dawson, ex England captain, of his son, Sami, who survived after 2 weeks of treatment provided at Great Ormond Street Hospital to fight the condition.

The family are currently campaigning for all children under the age of 11 to be given a vaccine, rather than just new born babies, and a petition to lobby the Government quickly garnered public support; by the closing date of 14 March 2016, it had reached a record 800,000 signatures. The Government's response has been that it would not be cost effective for all children to be given the vaccine, and the matter is scheduled to be debated in the House of Commons.

Whatever the outcome of the debate, Faye's sad case brought to the fore the deadly consequences of this disease, and the need to act quickly. The NHS Choices website has a detailed description, and provides useful information for what to do if it is suspected.

The type that Faye was affected by was bacterial meningitis, which if not appropriately managed, especially in children, can lead to rapid decline, including loss of limbs, brain damage, and sometimes, death. It is classed as a medical emergency due to its rapid onset and severity. 

The 'glass test' is a commonly used way of potentially identifying the disease - if a red rash does not fade when a glass is rolled over it, it could be a sign of septicaemia (blood poisoning). Some of the other common symptoms include:

  • a high fever
  • cold hands and feet
  • a stiff neck
  • vomiting and refusal to feed
  • pale, blotchy skin
  • a dislike of bright lights
  • a dislike of being handled
  • general unresponsiveness
  • feeling floppy

Immediate medical attention should be sought. If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to septicaemia, and potentially devastating consequences. Diagnosis even by medical professionals can be difficult due to the non-specific nature of the symptoms outlined above, but the earlier it can be treated, the better.

Whilst it is of little comfort to Faye's family, the bravery in releasing such vivid images of the effect meningitis had, will no doubt go some way to raise awareness.

Useful links

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Meningitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx 

Meningitis - NHS Choices

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-35602045

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/this-meningitis-grief-stricken-mother-7384743

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