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A study, commissioned by the Meningitis Trust shows that 1 in 3 children who have had bacterial meningitis, the most common form of the disease in the UK, will be left with after-effects.
Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia affect around 3,400 people in the UK each year, and approximately half of these are children. The new research looked at the long-term, often hidden, after-effects of meningitis in children as young as three years old.
The young victims were found to be struggling with mental health problems; anxiety or behavioural disorders, difficulties with both long and short-term memory, and potential epilepsy. Child sufferers can be left with a borderline low IQ, leaving them behind in the classroom, have speech and communication problems, and find it hard to plan and organise, especially as they move from primary to secondary school.
Alongside the ‘hidden’ after-effects, the devastating physical impact of meningitis was also reported, with sufferers experiencing hearing loss and limb amputations.
Our Chief Executive Sue Davie said: "This unique piece of research has highlighted the true impact of the disease – giving evidence to what we have been hearing from parents for years. We hope that now these results are in the public domain, parents will feel empowered to ask for help for their child, and education and health professionals will be better informed about the long-term effects of the disease."
For people who have experienced meningitis, the research findings may provide comfort, as many will be able to identify with the hidden after-effects that despite being life-changing, are often dismissed or misunderstood. But, for those who haven’t, it could increase fear about the disease and its impact. In light of this, the Trust is urging people to know the signs and symptoms as there is no current vaccine for the most common type of bacterial meningitis.
Sue concludes: "Knowing the signs and symptoms, acting quickly and trusting your instincts is vital when dealing with meningitis. Every day we see the devastation that meningitis can cause, so anything we can do to limit that is worthwhile. I would urge everyone to call us for a free credit-card sized symptoms card, download one of our symptoms apps, or call us for more information."
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