There are approximately 3300 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK and Ireland every year. Those at the highest risk include babies and toddlers, as they are more susceptible to infection due to their developing immune systems.
The only way to help prevent meningitis is by vaccination. However, whilst vaccinations help to reduce the number of children contracting meningitis or septicaemia, it does not eliminate the risks entirely.
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround the lining around the brain and spinal cord. The inflammation is usually as a direct result of the bacterial infection or viral infection, however, inflammation can also be caused by other complications such as cancer.
Viral meningitis is virtually never life threatening. However, if not treated rapidly, people can suffer from a variety of different after effects.
Bacterial Meningitis- can be life threatening and is more difficult to treat.
Septicaemia is the presence of bacteria in the blood resulting in blood poisoning. Commonly septicaemia will result from meningitis. Septicaemia progresses rapidly and can be life threatening.
It is possible to have both meningitis and septicaemia at the same time, or to have both diseases separately.
Meningococcal bacteria cause most cases in the UK and Ireland. Meningococcal bacteria can cause both meningitis and septicaemia.
The common symptoms to be aware of include:
- Tense or bulging soft spot in babies
- High Temperature / fever
- Very sleepy / staring expression / too sleepy to wake up
- Vomiting / refusing to feed
- Irritable when picked up, with a high pitch or moaning cry
- Breathing fast / difficulty breathing
- Blotchy skin, getting paler or turning blue
- Extreme shivering
- A stiff body with jerky movements, or else floppy / lifeless
- 'Pin prick' rash / marks or purple bruises on the body
- Cold hands and feet
- Pain/ irritability from muscle aches or severe limb/joint pain
- A rash (which can occur anywhere on the body)
- Complaining of a severe headache
- Dislike of bright lights
The septicaemic bacterium causes the rash. The rash can look like tiny red or brown dots on the skin, however these can change into large red or purple spots. Your child may not have all of these symptoms, and a rash does not occur in every case.
The Rash Test – if you take a glass and press it firmly against the septicaemic rash the marks will not fade, and the rash will be visible through the glass.
If this is the case then you should seek medical attention immediately.
Time is of the essence when treating meningitis or septicaemia. Often the common symptoms of meningitis or septicaemia can be mistaken for a cold or flu. Trust your instincts, if you feel that your child or loved one is seriously ill, be persistent.
There are numerous side affects of meningitis and septicaemia, which can be temporary or permanent. Some examples include:
- Memory loss
- Learning difficulties
- Cerebral Palsy
- Brain damage
- Slight loss
- Speech loss
- Kidney damage
- Lung damage
If you feel that you or your loved one’s symptoms went unnoticed or that your concerns were not taken on board by medical staff, then speak with one of our specialist lawyers at Head Injury UK who can provide advice and guidance should you wish to pursue a clinical negligence claim.