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Author: admin | Category: | Date: 22.11.2015

This summary identifies key findings from the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) Impact of Meningitis Member Survey.
Pneumococcal meningitis typically has a less dramatic onset than meningococcal disease, and the most visible symptom, the rash, is usually absent. Of those sent home from the GP only 4% remembered having the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia explained to them, which reinforces the need to educate healthcare professionals and the public about the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.
Thirty-eight percent of respondents told a health professional that they suspected meningitis, but fewer than half felt this was acted upon.
Of the 716 people with bacterial meningitis, 25% had no hearing test and of those who did, only 32% remember having a test before or up to one month after discharge. It is well documented6 that patients recovering from bacterial meningitis need an urgent hearing assessment so that if their hearing loss is too severe to benefit from conventional hearing aids, they can have cochlear implantation without delay. In this survey, half of patients with meningitis and septicaemia met with delay when seeking urgent medical help from their GP. Meningitis and septicaemia are difficult to detect in the early stages and therefore any ill patient sent home from the GP or hospital should be empowered to get medical help if their illness deteriorates. In this survey, fewer than a quarter of patients with bacterial meningitis had a hearing test within two months of discharge, despite the well-recognised urgency of this test. Health professionals involved in treating patients with meningitis and septicaemia, and families affected, need to be aware of the importance of prompt hearing testing. Heathcare professionals discharging patients should inform the GP, and the health visitor or school nurse if the patient is a child, that the person has had meningitis or septicaemia. The impact of meningitis and septicaemia on the work and finances of people affected and their families, demonstrates the far-reaching effects these diseases can have on well-being. This survey illustrates the staggering cost of meningitis and septicaemia to families, the healthcare system and society; and to date, the cost-benefit analyses that underpin the introduction of new vaccines fail to consider the full medical, educational and societal costs of the diseases.

Meanwhile, there are deficiencies in the early recognition and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia, and in the discharge process and after care package for people who have had these illnesses.
Produced by Meningitis Research Foundationa in collaboration with University of Bristol Department of Social Medicineb written by L Clarka,b, C Suntera, A Flacka, S Spencera, CL Trotterb , M Hickmanb, L Glenniea with support from Wyeth Vaccines (now Pfizer) and the Department of Trade and Industry. Meningitis is inflammation of the protective layers that surround the brain and spinal cord.
The meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis do not live long outside the body, so are usually only spread through prolonged, close contact. As in the case of bacterial meningitis, vaccination programmes have successfully eliminated the threat from many viruses that used to cause viral meningitis.
For example, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine provides children with immunity against mumps, once a leading cause of viral meningitis in children. Half of those who went to their GP with meningitis or septicaemia were sent home the first time and this is in line with the findings of a national MRF-funded study of meningococcal disease in children1.
This may explain the higher chances of delayed diagnosis in people with pneumococcal meningitis.
Since this survey was conducted, studies and guidelines1,2,3 have highlighted how crucial it is for healthcare professionals to explain to parents how to recognise serious illnesses – including meningitis – in sick children being sent home. A number of recent studies and national guidelines2,4.5 have highlighted the importance of parental perceptions in identifying serious infections, including meningitis and septicaemia, so if their concerns are disregarded, potentially useful diagnostic information is lost.
Overgrowth of bone within the inner ear happens rapidly after meningitis, so delays in assessment can reduce the success of cochlear implants.
This corroborates previous MRF research documenting psychological problems after meningitis and septicaemia7,8. Health professionals involved in recognition and early management of serious illness should receive training to recognise the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

MRF calls for formal audiological testing as soon as possible after bacterial meningitis, preferably before discharge, but within four weeks of being fit to test, in line with the NICE recommendation5. Healthcare professionals involved in the care of patients after meningitis and septicaemia need to be alert to the potential need for early referral to psychiatric services and other sources of support for emotional and behavioural problems, including MRF’s befriending service. MRF calls for improved awareness of the need for educational support in children affected by meningitis and septicaemia and for better and more timely access to such support including an early statement.
Meningitis should be treated as a medical emergency because bacterial meningitis can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can be fatal. There are several different types of meningococcal bacteria called groups A, B, C, W, X, Y and Z. MRF calls for improved access and equality of access throughout the country to speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy after bacterial meningitis and septicaemia.
Therefore, we believe prevention is key, and many deadly strains of meningitis are now preventable.
MRF calls for the widest and earliest possible implementation of effective vaccines to provide more comprehensive protection against meningitis.
If you suspect a case of bacterial meningitis, you should phone 999 immediately to request an ambulance.

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