It was great to see the charity Meningitis Now work so hard to raise awareness of viral meningitis last week in a bid to end the misconception that this particular form of the disease is not dangerous and always ‘mild’.
Using the theme #MakeViralVisible, the campaign aimed to identify how despite there being no clear visible symptoms of illness, viral meningitis can have serious, long-term impact on peoples’ health and lives.
It is a message we fully support at Hudgell Solicitors, as in our work as medical negligence specialists, it is often the failure to be aware of symptoms and secure early diagnosis of illnesses that leads to preventable long-term suffering and loss.
Any message about the need to be extra vigilant with regard to any symptoms linked to meningitis is to be welcomed, and again tackles the misconception that the main sign to look for is a rash, as one of our clients has been passionately campaigning around.
The ‘invisible’ symptoms of meningitis – do you know them?
Symptoms of viral meningitis can include a severe headache, a dislike of bright lights, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting and confusion, and anyone, of any age, can be affected.
Expert opinion suggests up to 6,000 people each year across the UK suffer from viral meningitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord.
It is dismissed by many as a less serious disease than bacterial meningitis, but although most people will make a full recovery and no longer experience after-effects six months later, the process can be slow, and for some the effects can be lifelong.
Many symptoms of bacterial meningitis in babies and young children are also ‘invisible’. They include agitation and refusing to be picked up, refusing to eat, being sensitive to light, drowsiness and having a high fever.
Of course, other visible symptoms such as convulsions or seizures, pale or blotchy skin, vomiting and the red rash that does not fade under pressure – which most people are aware of – are all signs to act on immediately.
In its campaign, Meningitis Now recognised and tackled a real need for greater vigilance around ‘invisible’ symptoms.
Cayden’s Story highlights need to spot early meningitis symptoms and demand tests
Meningitis is not always obvious – not only for patients, but for medical specialists too. This brings a need for extra awareness and caution.
It is something our client Gaynor McConnell knows all too well.
She tragically lost her baby boy Cayden when he was just one. He had constantly been ill throughout his short life, suffering from repeated infections and flu-like colds, so much so that Gaynor was convinced something more serious was wrong.
However, she was repeatedly told by doctors that there were no major concerns over Cayden’s health.
Cayden became seriously ill aged 11 months old and never recovered. By the time he showed clear visible signs of illness – such as a rash – it was far too late.
Subsequent investigations, as part of a legal investigation into his care, revealed chances to prevent his death were missed when seen by doctors at four months old.
Gaynor has since launched her own meningitis awareness website, Cayden’s Story, and shared Cayden’s Story on social media as part of Viral Meningitis Awareness Week.
She hopes that by sharing details of her son’s death, the events leading to it and how doctors missed opportunities to save him, she can help other parents to spot dangers, and demand more answers and tests when they have concerns.
Her 90-second video encourages parents to trust their instincts, call for medical help with any concerns immediately, and not to simply seek reassurance from doctors, but clear answers and thorough investigation.
Gaynor deserves praise and support in all she is doing.
The message – from both Meningitis Now and Gaynor – is simple. Know the symptoms of meningitis – particularly those which are not visible, and act quickly.