24 April 2017
In the two months leading up to World Meningitis Day, people from across the globe took to their phones and cameras in order to share their voices in raising awareness of meningitis, share its symptoms and call others to action. Now on World Meningitis Day, April 24th, we are pleased to launch the result: The Voices Against Meningitis Video.
Just as meningitis can affect anyone at any age, participants varied from toddlers to teenagers to grandparents and each had their own reasons for backing the campaign. Some were members of the public, some healthcare professionals, whilst others had been personally affected by meningitis, either having survived it or having sadly lost a loved one to meningitis. Meningitis happens everywhere, and seeing and hearing the voices from individuals from around the world helped bring to life the startling reality that meningitis has a truly global impact.
Why is Meningitis Awareness important?
Each year over 1 million people are affected by bacterial meningitis and 170,000 lives are lost. Dr Obinna Ebirim, who became a Member of CoMO following the outbreak of meningitis in Nigeria this month, which has taken the lives of over 700, highlights the gravity of the situation,
“Over 10 percent of those affected [are] dead”
Those who survive may be left with life-long side-effects including deafness, limb loss, brain damage and seizures. Knowing the symptoms takes just a few minutes compared to a life-time with the results. Meningitis survivor and Paralympian, Nick Springer, knew this all too well,
“I almost lost my life to it, I lost all four of my limbs. Tremendous amount of scarring.”
“When it comes to life or death, you’re going to want to know what you’re talking about”
Awareness is key to prevention, because knowing what to look out for leads to prompt treatment, which reduces the likelihood of life-long disability and can save lives. If parents don’t know what meningitis is, then they may wait until it is too late before taking their child to the hospital. The symptoms of meningitis are similar to those that present themselves due to the common cold; therefore, it is essential to be conscious of meningitis and always ask, “Could this be meningitis?”
Matt Dawson, former England Rugby player, also highlighted this connection that parents have to their children, having almost lost his son due to meningitis as a baby:
“Thankfully through the awareness of my wife, myself and my GP, it was caught early and actually saved his life”
The main symptoms to look out for are: fever, rash, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, sensitivity to light and drowsiness. These symptoms can appear in any order, so don’t wait for multiple to present. For more information on the symptoms of meningitis, click here.
Why is it important to Trust your instincts?
If you think you spot any of the symptoms, ‘Trust Your Instincts’ and seek medical help. Trust Your Instincts is the theme of this year’s World Meningitis Day, chosen by our members.
Santi, President of the Spanish Association against Meningitis emphasised the power of parents’ intuition and their position to make a decision:
“No-one knows as well as a parent does whether their child’s fever is normal or not..”
The symptoms of meningitis develop quickly, so as soon as you feel something is not right, trust your instincts and ACT FAST. Alicia Stillman, of the Emily Stillman Foundation shared her tragic story,
“My 19 year old daughter, Emily, called home with a headache and died the next day. It’s fast.”
Seek medical help. It could save your life or the life of someone you know.
What actions should you take?
As highlighted in the video, knowing the symptoms of meningitis is the first thing you can do to be sure that if it does strike, you know what to do and you act fast. Don’t wait, meningitis can kill in less than 24 hours, so trust your instincts and seek help at the first sign. Kaye of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination reminds us,
“Trust your instincts. Consult your doctor immediately”
Even with prompt diagnosis and treatment, around 10-20% of patients with bacterial meningitis will die within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms. This is why vaccination is so important. Vaccines currently available could prevent more than 90% of cases of bacterial meningitis.
“Protect Yourself. Vaccinate Yourself”
Vaccines are available to help prevent against some, but not all forms of meningitis. The more people that are vaccinated, the fewer meningitis-causing diseases will be in society, and therefore fewer people affected by the disease. For more information on ways to protect against meningitis, click here.
Being vocal about meningitis can take many forms. Some members of CoMO are holding awareness-raising events this week for World Meningitis Day. An easy way to spread the word, is sharing the symptoms on social media.
There are a wealth of resources online that are free to download and share, including CoMO’s World Meningitis Day toolkit. Thanks to the availability of mobile devices and the internet, it’s possible for people to have the symptoms of meningitis at their fingertips and there are even Apps which help you to spot the signs of meningitis now. Social media makes our audience bigger and is therefore a fantastic platform that we should take advantage of for sharing information about vaccines and meningitis.
We are so grateful to everyone around the world that added their voices to our campaign, everyone that got involved can be seen in the background of the video, showing their support. A playlist of their clips can be seen here. Meningitis can affect anyone from anywhere at any age and we hope that this World Meningitis Day more people will learn to Trust their Instincts. Watch the Voices Against Meningitis video here and share it so that more people learn about meningitis and why it’s important to trust your instincts. Together, we can help save lives.
Chris Head is the President of the CoMO. Chris has over 25 years' experience in the charity sector and was CEO of Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), one of the UK's largest meningitis research charities, for eight years.