This year Meningitis Awareness Week comes as a timely reminder amidst the COVID 19 pandemic that meningitis and other serious infections have not gone away. 

We have become all too aware in the last six months of the impact that a viral infection can have.  However, whilst the focus has understandably been on the symptoms of and risk posed by COVID 19, we need to remain vigilant when it comes to meningitis and other potentially life threatening infections.

Rates of meningitis reduced during lockdown as the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID 19 were also effective in checking the spread of other viral and bacterial infections. Unfortunately since the relaxation of restrictions those rates have begun to rise again. This is expected to continue as we enter what is usually the peak season for meningitis with children returning to school and students to university. 

By knowing the signs and symptoms we can help distinguish features of meningitis and ensure that we or our loved ones seek appropriate medical attention.  

So, what are the symptoms of meningitis?

Symptoms may include:

- a high temperature or fever (e.g. 38C or above)

- sickness or vomiting 

- a headache

- a blotchy rash that doesn't fade/blanch when pressed 

- a stiff neck

- a dislike of bright lights (photosensitivity)

- drowsiness or unresponsiveness

- seizures or fits 

Early symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet.  However, it is important to understand that not all of the symptoms may appear and that if they do it could be on any order. The absence of the typical non-blanching rash (one which does not fade when a glass is rolled over it) does not mean it is not meningitis.

Some of the symptoms of meningitis such as a high temperature or fever are also potential symptoms of COVID 19, but there are significant differences. For example meningitis does not typically cause coughing and COVID 19 is not usually characterised by vomiting, photosensitivity a stiff neck or by a rash. 

It is also true that symptomatic COVID 19 is more prevalent in older adults, where as although meningitis can affect anyone of any age it is more prevalent in children, teenagers and young adults.

It is vital that anyone developing symptoms that could be meningitis seeks urgent medical attention.

Freeths Oxford are proud to be Meningitis Research Foundation’s exclusive legal partner in the south east and to support their campaign to raise awareness and improve advice to patients. 

See www.meningitis.org 

If you or a member of your family have suffered an injury or if you have lost a loved one as a result of meningitis or septicaemia and you are concerned with the standard of treatment received, then our specialist medical negligence solicitors may be able to help. Please contact Catherine Bell, Director, on catherine.bell@freeths.co.uk or 01865 781140 or another member of our specialist team on 01865 781100 or clinicalnegligence@freeths.co.uk.