A CHOBHAM resident will be sharing her dreadful first-hand experiences of meningitis and septicaemia with the local community over national Meningitis Awareness Week (September 15 to 21) to ensure that people are made aware of the symptoms.
The international charity Meningitis Research Foundation estimates that meningitis and septicaemia affect about nine people a day in the UK and Ireland.
They are deadly diseases that strike without warning and kill one in 10 of those who fall victim, leaving a quarter of the survivors with life-altering damage ranging from deafness and brain damage to the loss of limbs.
Children under five and students are most at risk, but these diseases can strike anyone at any age, and not all forms are currently covered by vaccines.
Speaking about her own loss, Helen Burn said: “My father died of meningitis in 2001 at the age of 69. He was very fit and healthy and had rarely had a day off sick in his whole life.
“His was a classic case of slow diagnosis: he was treated as an ‘old man who probably had a chest infection’. He waited hours before being assessed by a doctor, and even longer to be prescribed anything. It wasn’t until a nurse saw the rash that they started taking his condition seriously, by which time it was too late.
“In the space of 12 hours he went from being ignored to being ‘the sickest person in the whole hospital’ – as his intensive-care consultant described him.
“I am supporting Meningitis Awareness Week because everyone needs to know what the symptoms are so they can seek medical help as fast as possible.”
Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, Christopher Head, said he was very grateful to Helen for her support of Meningitis Awareness Week.
He added: “Meningitis and septicaemia are diseases you never expect to happen but, sadly, her personal experience really brings home how devastating these diseases can be and why it’s so important to be aware of their symptoms and ready to act fast when loved ones or friends fall sick to it.”
Vaccines have almost eliminated some types of meningitis, but not all. Children are currently vaccinated against Hib, MenC and 13 strains of pneumococcal meningitis. A MenB vaccine was recommended for infants in the UK in March 2014, and while it is available privately, a timetable for implementing it on the NHS has yet to be confirmed.
The UK Government have also introduced a new MenC booster campaign aimed at students who are starting university. GPs can administer the vaccine for free until October 31, and a booster is then needed every year until 2017.
New students are at increased risk of encountering the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease because many of them live in busy halls of residence and are in close contact with many other new students, particularly during freshers’ week.
Students should get themselves immunised at least two weeks before they move away to university or college.