Learning a few things about meningitis

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a blogger forum on engagement about meningitis recently. The day happened yesterday, up in the chilly climes of Birmingham.

The event was sponsored by Novartis, the vaccine company but the talks were given by an independent doctor in Dr Rob Hicks and the three main meningitis charities in the UK, Meningitis TrustMeningitis Research Foundation and Meningitis UK were present to talk to.

We found out about the three types of meningitis:

It’s the bacterial meningitis, that comes in 3 flavours that’s the scary one, the one that can kill within hours if action isn’t taken. In fact meningitis kills more UK children under the age of five than any other infectious disease. It can sound scary but there are many positives that you can take from the research done by charities and the pharmaceutical companies into vaccinations. More about those another day (I’ll link it in here when it’s written).

I’ve always thought of meningitis as one of those taboo subjects you should never really talk or think about in case it cottons on and decides to strike down one of your family. Stupid and superstitious but it’s almost like not knowing about it is some sort of protection.

Of course everyone knows about the tumbler test and one of the other parent’s there even made a point of buying some plain tumblers just so she could have some in the house if the need arose. But the tumbler test isn’t actually a test for meningitis, it’s a test for septicaemia (blood poisoning)  which you often get with meningitis but don’t always, and is usually a late symptom anyway.

Symptoms explained, click for larger image

We had our own meningitis scare when the boy was a little baby. He had a rash, and we weren’t sure if it was blanching under pressure from a tumbler. I mean, it was fading, but was it fading properly? We weren’t sure so we called NHS Direct, and less than 6 minutes later a paramedic ambulance pulled up outside our house, the crew almost battering the door down in their haste to get to the boy. It turned out to be what our pharmacist usually refers to as a “non specific general viral rash”.

I know most people have the fear of wasting somebody’s time with a false emergency, but given that if it goes untreated, bacterial meningitis is fatal in 90% of cases; when the paramedic said the boy didn’t have meningitis, I don’t think I’ve ever been as grateful of anything in my life. And that includes the time my twisted testicle became untwisted.

The next episode of the Daddacool Show will be a meningitis special, so stay tuned for that. It has a useful and informative piece to camera from the Chief Exec of the Meningitis Trust about the charities aims. So far each “show” has had around 150 views, I’d love it if the meningitis special was watched by ten times that number, just to get the message out (and to massage my already enormous ego if I’m going to be brutally honest with myself).

You may notice in the next few days a sidebar link to Meningitis mobile app (for iPhone and Android devices) appearing. This is handy to have on your phone and might just be a life saver if you’re in a situation where you just don’t know what to do.