Know Meningitis: Parents arent aware of all the signs of meningitis, study finds

A new survey conducted by GSK shows that while almost all surveyed parents (95 percent) have heard of meningitis1, many are still unaware of the range of symptoms associated with the disease.

A rash is the most commonly associated symptom of meningitis (84 percent), followed by a stiff neck (73 percent) and dislike of bright light or headache (both 66 percent). However, there are a number of symptoms which the majority of parents do not relate to the disease, including vomiting (39 percent), convulsions/seizures (23 percent), and cold hands and feet (21 percent)

To mark World Meningitis Day on Wednesday, April 24, GSK has launched the Know Meningitis campaign on social media platforms, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the disease, which is rare but potentially fatal. Information about who is at risk, the signs and symptoms of the disease and how best to protect family members is available at www.knowmeningitis.ie.

The survey of 375 parents in Ireland was conducted as part of GSK’s campaign and half of the respondents (50 percent) reported that they ‘know of someone’ or ‘know someone’ who has had meningitis.1

Just over a third (37 percent) of surveyed parents are not aware of any of the major types of meningococcal meningitis (A,B,C,W,X,Y). Less than half (46 percent) of parents said they were aware of meningococcal B disease (MenB) and just under a third (32 percent) said they were aware of meningococcal C disease (MenC)1 – MenB and MenC account for the majority of disease in Ireland. There were also extremely low levels of knowledge of MenW, MenX and MenY 1.

Those surveyed are most likely to consider babies and children under-five as being most at risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis, while only a quarter (25 percent) of those surveyed believe 15-19-year-olds are one of the high-risk groups, even though a peak in disease activity is also seen among this age group.

The findings of the survey also point to confusion among parents about which vaccines their children have received through the national immunisation programme. Surveyed parents of 15-19-year-olds reported that 62 percent of those children had received the meningococcal B vaccination as part of the HSE vaccination programme,1 even though it is not available through the programme for that age group.

The Know Meningitis campaign provides parents and carers with the information they need to better understand the disease, how to spot signs and symptoms and how it can be prevented.

It also aims to increase understanding around preventative actions that can be taken to protect against meningitis and to raise awareness that no single vaccine protects against all types of meningococcal meningitis. It is important to remember that whilst there are vaccines available to protect against some types of meningitis and septicaemia, there is no single vaccine to protect against all types of meningitis, so awareness of the signs and symptoms is key.2

Dr Philip Cruz, GSK’s Vaccines Medical Director for the UK and Ireland, commented: “While the survey shows that rash is perceived to be the most commonly associated symptom of meningitis, it is important that parents and carers are aware that the disease is not just having a rash that won’t go away. Some cases may not present with rash at all in the early stages. Parents and carers should ensure they are informed, and most importantly trust their instincts.”

Siobhan Carroll, CEO of ACT for Meningitis, added: “After the alarming statistics highlighted in the GSK survey on World Meningitis Day, ACT for Meningitis implore people to get to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis, ensure your children's vaccinations are up to date and trust your instincts if you suspect meningitis and seek medical help immediately.”

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