Meningitis warning from Calderdale's public health boss

The head of public health in Calderdale has urged people to know the symptoms of meningitis after confirmed cases in the borough.

By sarah fitton
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 10:00 am

Director of Public Health Debs Harkins says the risk of catching the disease is still very low, but urged people to make sure they know the symptoms to watch out for.

"We’re aware of a small number of confirmed meningitis cases in the borough," she said.

"While I would like to reassure local people the risk of catching meningitis remains very low, I do urge everyone to be aware of the symptoms.

The risk of catching the disease is still very low

"These can include a high temperature, vomiting, severe headache, a stiff neck, aching limbs and joints, a dislike of bright lights, drowsiness, a rash which does not fade when pressed."

"If you’re concerned that you or your child may have meningitis, it’s important to get medical advice as soon as possible as it can be very serious if not treated quickly.

"If you think you or your child may have missed any of the routine childhood meningitis vaccinations, please contact your GP. This vaccine protects against a number of different strains of meningococcal infection.”

Further advice and information about meningitis is available at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/ or NHS 111. There is also advice available through the Meningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis Now.

Director of Public Health for Calderdale Debs Harkins

The charity Meningitis Now says it is concerned that cases of meningitis are on the rise again, especially among young people, after historic lows during the pandemic.

The latest figures, released by the UK Health Security Agency for October to December last year, show 65 confirmed cases of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia (invasive meningococcal disease).

This compares with 19 cases for the same period the previous year.

This is still well below pre-pandemic levels (185 cases for this period in 2019)but the charity is concerned that the number of cases, in particular of MenB, is rising and will continue to do so.

Meningitis Now Chief Executive Tom Nutt said: “We always feared that cases of invasive meningococcal disease would start to rise again from the historically low figures we saw during the pandemic as people – particularly young people – began to lead more normal lives and mix and socialise again.”

The latest figures for England show that of the 65 confirmed cases in the period MenB accounted for 57 of these – 88 per cent. There were three cases of MenW, with one occurring in the 20 to 24 age group.

Overall, there were 14 cases in children aged under 5 and all but one of these were MenB. There was a total of 29 cases in the 15 to 19 age group, with 26 due to MenB.

Tom added: “A worrying aspect of these latest figures is the number of MenB cases in teenagers. Although most teenagers will be vaccinated for MenACWY, this will not protect them against MenB.

“These latest figures bear that out and while overall numbers are still well below pre-pandemic levels, the significant growth in the number of cases is concerning, with nearly half of all recorded cases affecting children and teenagers.”

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord, usually caused by bacteria or viruses. The bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia.

Tom added: “Every day we hear of new cases and the heartbreak they can cause. These latest figures just spur us on to greater efforts as we work towards our vision – where no one dies from this disease and everyone affected gets the support they need.

“It’s vital that as well as keeping up to date with vaccinations people also take five minutes to learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis and seek urgent medical advice if the disease is suspected – we know early diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes. And it could help save someone’s life.”