Meningitis charity issues warning over cases of mistaken Swine flu

PUBLISHED: 16:23 16 September 2009 | UPDATED: 07:21 30 May 2010

THE UK s longest running meningitis charity, the Meningitis Trust, is calling for people to stay alert to the signs and symptoms of the disease during the autumn months, which sees cases of both flu and meningitis increase. A predicted swine flu outbreak

THE UK's longest running meningitis charity, the Meningitis Trust, is calling for people to stay alert to the signs and symptoms of the disease during the autumn months, which sees cases of both flu and meningitis increase.

A predicted swine flu outbreak this autumn is a concern to the charity, as fighting infections like colds and flu can weaken immune systems, leaving people more vulnerable to meningitis.

Flu affects up to about 10 per cent of the population and experts are predicting that the UK will see more flu-like illnesses in the colder months. The trust is urging people not to mistake meningitis symptoms for those of these illnesses as it can be fatal.

Every year sees an increase in cases of bacterial meningitis over the winter months.

Services and education director of the Meningitis Trust, Bridie Taylor, said: "As there isn't a vaccine yet for meningococcal group B, we are urging everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms as the colder months begin to creep in.

"It's a common misconception that people think they are protected by vaccines for all strains of meningitis - this is a mistake that could cost lives.

"As well as having weaker immune systems from fighting infections, people are also at an increased risk as in winter we tend to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity to others, which means germs are spread more easily."

Symptoms

The early symptoms of meningitis can easily be mistaken for those of flu and include fever, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, drowsiness, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion and in some, but not all cases, a rash. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.

Mrs Taylor added: "Worryingly, the symptoms can easily look like other, more common conditions. As we've recently seen with swine flu, it's extremely important to keep meningitis in mind when someone is displaying flu-like symptoms. Mistaking the symptoms could be fatal.

"With winter upon us, it is all the more important to be cautious and aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis, and to seek medical attention as a matter of urgency if you suspect the disease."

For more information visit www.meningitis-trust.org

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