Parents are put on meningitis alert

Female physician in lab coat and mask isolated on white
Female physician in lab coat and mask isolated on white

A LEADING specialist in communicable diseases is warning parents across Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley to be on their guard against meningitis.

Professor Qutub Syed, director of the Health Protection Agency in the North-West, says everyone should be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal infection as the number of cases increase in the winter.

The infection is caused by a germ and can result in inflammation of the brain lining and/or blood poisoning.

Infection can occur at any age, though most cases are recorded in children under four, and teenagers.

Prof. Syed said the disease is not easy to detect, but everyone should know what to look for and be prepared to take urgent action.

He said: “Our advice is that if you suspect someone has meningococcal disease, call the doctor immediately.

“If the doctor isn’t available, take the patient to the nearest accident and emergency department. Prompt action is vital.”

Early symptoms of the disease may include:

A rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass due to bleeding under the skin;

Sudden onset of high fever;

A severe and worsening headache without any other obvious cause;

Severe neck stiffness;

Dislike of bright lights;

Very cold hands and feet;

Drowsiness that can deteriorate into a fever; and

Babies being irritable when picked up and have a high pitched cry, stiff body and jerking movements.

Prof. Syed added: “The symptoms are not always present and this can be a problem, particularly in identifying the disease in babies and very young children.

“If a baby is obviously ill or distressed, parents should seek medical help immediately.

“Don’t take a chance with a child’s health.”