Meningitis: what you need to know

Guest blog by Julia Styles

Meningitis: if you’re an adult and certainly if you’re over 50 and a parent or a grandparent, you were probably acutely aware of this word when your precious little ones were under five. You probably remember the ‘glass test’ campaign to roll a glass over ‘the rash’ to see if it could be meningitis?

My name is Julia Styles and my daughter Emily Charlotte Styles died of Bacterial Meningitis (meningitis B). Emily was a fit, healthy and full of life 19 year old, five years ago.

Emily thought she had a migraine and went to bed where she was staying. In fact Emily had contracted Meningitis -  but she had no rash. No rash at all. Not even one spot. She died on New Year’s day 2014 just hours after falling unconscious on New Year’s Eve, despite the best efforts of the Air Ambulance and the ICU at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Six months after Emily died, I began campaigning to raise awareness of meningitis and lobby parliament to introduce a newly approved vaccination into the childhood immunisation programme. Different strains of Meningitis are now able to be vaccinated against. Babies / toddlers are now vaccinated on the NHS against Meningitis B and Meningitis C and there’s a new vaccine to protect adolescents and young adults against Meningitis A C W and Y strains – that’s another thing I didn’t realise – that there are more than 5 different strains of meningitis. In addition. the Meningitis B vaccination can also be bought privately and I’d urge you to consider this.

There were no vaccines

There were no vaccines when Emily died; there are now.

But this isn’t the only danger: a new survey reveals that 95% of people aged over 55 do not consider themselves to be at risk from deadly meningitis and septicaemia, despite the fact that cases of the disease INCREASE in older adults.

Dr Tom Nutt, CEO of Meningitis Now explains: “This combination of increasing risk and lack of awareness is putting older people at risk from this devastating disease.”

Meningitis Now’s ‘Adults get it too’ campaign is calling on all adults to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease by ordering free ‘Signs & Symptoms’ cards from its website

Early signs & symptoms in adults can be similar to flu, a tummy bug, a hangover or a migraine and include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold hands and feet. More specific signs may include drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights. Sometimes there is a rash but in many cases this is NOT present. If there is a rash it does not fade under pressure.

Stories of people who have died of meningitis and have suffered devastating physical and mental effects are harrowing, especially when many of these people were very ‘fit and healthy.’

Think about my Emily

As we approach the coming Christmas & New Year, I want to urge you to think about my Emily. She had her whole adult life ahead of her. On New Year’s Eve when you raise a glass to all those you love, imagine for a moment how hard it is for us: as the clocks struck midnight on New Year’s eve 2013, we were told Emily was not going to make it. She died hours later. If Emily was here today,  she’d do what she always did: help others. She’d also get very cross if you didn’t listen to our important message:

Please learn the SIGNS & SYMPTOMS of Meningitis and protect yourself from this killer.

If you’d like to support my fundraising campaign or just to read about my beautiful, precious, funny, grumpy, gorgeous first born daughter with the most beautiful brown eyes please click here