Family fights for meningitis vaccine

A FAMILY with first-hand experience of the dangers of meningitis are calling on the Government to push for a vaccine.

Lesley and Keith Newman know all too well the devastating effects of the disease as their children contracted it when they were young.

Their son James almost lost his life to the illness, while Keith’s daughter Amy was also seriously ill. Fortunately, both survived, but one in ten people who contract the disease are not so lucky and many survivors suffer life-long after-effects.

Now the Ulgham family are backing a campaign by the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) to show the shocking lifelong financial costs of surviving meningitis and septicaemia and to press the Government to pursue the widest and earliest implementation of vaccines to prevent the diseases.

Antiques dealer Lesley said: “Our 12-year-old son James contracted the disease at just three months old and very nearly lost his life.

“My husband’s daughter Amy, now 19, has also had meningitis so anything that helps to prevent people contracting it is good news.

“I am supporting this campaign to ensure everyone is aware of the dangers of the disease and to ensure all children are vaccinated against every type of meningitis.”

Every year around 2,500 cases of meningitis are reported in the UK, killing ten per cent of patients and leaving 15 per cent with severe after-effects, such as brain damage, loss of hearing and sight, and where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs and scarring.

The MRF is currently funding 18 research projects into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia and has spent £16.5m on research since it was formed in 1989.

It offers a free 24-hour helpline to provide information about the diseases, as well as a website, and also runs a befriending service for sufferers to share their experiences.

Its Counting the Cost of Meningitis campaign has already attracted more than 4,000 signatures, but organisers hope to gain even more support.

MRF Chief Executive Christopher Head said: “Counting the Cost of Meningitis shows how those who survive can struggle to come to terms with the impact of these horrific diseases which change lives forever.

“Our campaign makes practical recommendations to the Government to reduce the burden of disease through vaccination in the UK.

“Vaccination provides peace of mind for every parent across the country and to date over 4,000 people agree with us and have signed our online petition.

“I appeal to the people of Morpeth to sign our petition too and join the fight against meningitis and septicaemia.”

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. It can strike quickly and kill within hours.

People most at risk are children under five, young people aged 15 to 24 and adults over 55, but the disease can affect anyone.

The risk increases during colder months as people spend more times indoors, closer to others, enabling germs to spread more easily, while fighting common infections like cold and flu weakens the immune system, leaving people more vulnerable to the disease.

Symptoms can include fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, joint or muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, drowsiness, confusion and convulsions. Babies may also have a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry and rapid breathing.

Both adults and children may also have a rash that does not fade under pressure.

Anyone concerned they or relatives may have the disease should seek urgent medical attention.

The Meningitis Trust is warning people to stay vigilant to the signs of the disease and has symptoms listed online at www.meningitis-symptoms.co.uk

Anyone wishing to sign the MRF petition, or view a video to accompany its campaign, should visit www.meningitis.org

Its helpline is available on 080 8800 3344.