Meningitis is a terrifying disease for all parents. The Meningitis Trust have some sound advice for any worried parents.
Nina Sebastiane: Meningitis is a word that strikes fear into all parents. And while the disease can be fatal, parents can get their child, the very best chance of making a full recovery. By being alert, to the signs and the symptoms. Julia Fenn from the Meningitis Trust, is here today, along with Fiona and her son Jude, who survived his battle with this terrible infection. Welcome to the show to the three of you. Fiona can you just briefly give us Jude’s story. Fiona Robertson: Yes, it happened in January and he -- we thought he had flu. He was a bit off color for about, a day and then overnight he was finally sick continually pretty much. So we took him to the hospital because it was New Year's day and he was in A&E for seven hours and we thought it might be Gastroenteritis. Nina Sebastiane: So did they do all sorts of tests? Fiona Robertson: No, not really they tried to hydrate him that was the main thing. But they didn’t really give him any test because we found after, they might have given him lumbar puncture, that he was so hydrated, but they didn’t. And then they admit him that night, and then he just -- he went down here, very quickly and he runs into intensive caring Nina Sebastiane: Oh! Bunny is dropped, but that's alright. Fiona Robertson: In guys the next day and yes, meningitis was diagnosed about three days later. Nina Sebastiane: So it took quite a while from -- you first diagnosed something being wrong to then, saying okay, this is meningitis, this is what we can do to treat it. Now Julia is that common? Julia Fenn: I am afraid it is, it’s as mysteriously difficult disease to diagnose in the early stages. But symptoms can seem like colds, flu, and students that can seem like a hang over. If you have terrible headache that's often one of the facts, and people just don't ask the question, what we are trying to say to people is if in any diagnose, get yourself some medical help, get stand to A&E with your liquid GP, but just don’t waste any time and it also, it applies obviously to parents and individual here, looking out for yourself and your children and your friends. It just is something that even experienced medics, I am sure, they would agree that it does still get missed sometimes and time is of the essence. Nina Sebastiane: How common is it in this country? Julia Fenn: Meningitis isn’t that common an illness compared with a cancer or leukemia. But it acts very-very quickly and it can be fatal. So in a year on average the statistics of hazardous, about 3000 reported cases but medical experts reckon that's just half the picture and lot of -- particularly viral meningitis which is generally, the less serious type of meningitis isn’t reported, because people feel pretty unwell like flu for may be, few weeks or a month and then, they get better without sort of prescribed treatment, it’s like rest and fluids and paracetamol, it’s the bacterial form that’s really very serious. Nina Sebastiane: So it’s the bacterial one that’s more serious and it can be fatal. Julia Fenn: Yes it can. Nina Sebastiane: Are there particular groups that are at risk, for example babies? Julia Fenn: Yeah, exactly right. The most common occurrence is in children under 12 months. But it’s really to nod to five. And that’s because very young children and babies immune systems hopefully develop, so they don’t have that resistance. Also is what we have to say, that the very elderly for a different reason at that stage in your life, you might be quite frail and have immune deficiency and in students and young people 18-24 are the next most at risk after babies. Nina Sebastiane: So Fiona, looking like he is a having a great time down there, please make him feel very at home. He is enjoying Barbie at that little prop set, that's fantastic. It’s the best use, we have had out to that. So Fiona, how do you think you got it, have you any idea how meningitis came out. Fiona Robertson: Absolutely, no idea when we were speaking to the doctors when he was very ill, the kind of answer was it’s nature, that was the answer it’s nature. Nina Sebastiane: But how do we get meningitis? Julia Fenn: Well, if only we could tell you categorically. Basically, at anytime in our lives you, I, Fiona the guys in the studio will have the bacteria in the back of our throats, with no real effects. We probably have some immunity anyway, but it’s just the trigger could be, but your immune system is depleted, you run down, we just cant exactly say, it’s actually very difficult to get meningitis before people start to panic. But that said, the way that it's transmitted is through intimate contact, that’s intimate kissing, prolonged contact in houses, if you are sharing a bed with somebody in your house, that’s why students and young people are at risk, because often they are letting much more close the quarters than average person. Basically, if only I could tell you, but it’s just although more reason to just keep vigilant and just don’t know the signs and symptoms. Nina Sebastiane: So give me an idea of kind of symptoms again that if you are in anyway worried, specially with younger children or babies for example, how old was he? He generally about one year, was he at that time. So he couldn’t tell you there was anything wrong. Obviously the vomiting alerted you to something and then, you went to hospital. What else can you look up for? Julia Fenn: Well a high fever, a very high pitched cry, I don’t know Fiona will sort of confirm that. Also, often in babies like an arched back, sometimes if the neck, is just very-very stiff and that’s true in adults as well. Nina Sebastiane: Bright light is one, that I have always been told. Julia Fenn: That’s more with adults I think, what parents have told us is that children who are sort of quite starring ahead blankly, they are not getting the response to the movement, very lethargic and -- they are just not responding as they normally do and I can't stress this enough, which is that – a parent knows, his or her child better than anyone else. If you are not happy with what your GP is saying, are they saying notoriously difficult just what could be a number of other things, ask the question. Nina Sebastiane: I mean Fiona, did you come home and have to go back again, once you were in. Fiona Robertson: No, we were in for five weeks in total. So we were quite lucky living in London, I think that makes a huge difference. Nina Sebastiane: I mean he looks like a fantastically healthy baby boy, now but what are the reprecautions. Fiona Robertson: Well, when he first came out he couldn’t even hold his head he had to relearn to walk, he had to relearn to do everything pretty much and then we found out about two weeks later, that he was profoundly deaf. So that’s what happened, so he is hearing --. Nina Sebastiane: Yeah, and in terms of obviously your bringing up of Jude now, your sign languaging you are starting with him. Fiona Robertson: Yes, and he has also got Cochlear implant. So he is learning to listen, so hopefully he might be verbal, it doesn’t matter if he is not but Nina Sebastiane: Is there any chance of his hearing coming back. Fiona Robertson: No, no whatsoever. Nina Sebastiane: Oh! He is absolutely adorable. Thank you, for coming in, what I wanted to check before you go away, is what if you got -- if anybody at home is slightly concerned, because I am guessing that kids get ill all the time and how do you know whether it’s -- oh! I am just being a bit sick because I am positing on, sick because it might be meningitis. What should people do if they are nervous about it? Julia Fenn: Well, we have 24 hour nurse helpline and the number for that is 0845-6800. Nina Sebastiane: Yeah, let me read that again for you. 0845-6800 if you are I anyway concerned or you want to speak somebody about meningitis. Can people go to a website to download anything? Julia Fenn: They certainly can and the web address is www.meningitis-trust.org and what we have in abundance of these little symptoms cards, they are just the size of a credit card, they fit in your wallet and we know from so many of our supporter and that it actually have saved lives, because they were able to cross of, how many symptoms they are having. Nina Sebastiane: You brought some with you. Haven't you? Julia Fenn: Absolutely. Nina Sebastiane: So they can get these from either getting in touch by the website or via the free phone number. Now, it shows here the glass test and we haven’t actually talked about that, but is that something again is a good indicator that something is not right. Julia Fenn: Absolutely right, we haven’t actually talked about Meningitis and Septicemia together. Basically, Meningitis and Septicemia do sometimes come together, but not necessarily and Septicemia is very-very serious indeed basically it’s blood poisoning and it sometimes does show a rash which is when that sort of blood under the skin it’s basically the body trying to defend itself against the meningococcal bacteria, which cause meningitis. What Septicemia can lead to very seriously is obviously brain damage, it can lead to loss of limbs and so what we have to do is I can't address it enough is actually to act very quickly. Nina Sebastiane: Oh! Where did it go? Where did it go? Where did it go? It’s gone, go get it, go get it, where is it? It's gone over there. Julia Fenn: And the glass test is a way if you do spot a rash which often starts as tiny pin pricks under the skin, roll a glass over it and if the rash doesn’t fade that is a sure sign of Septicemia. But again, we can't always guarantee that you will get the rash and you still might have Septicemia. So, by the time you have got those pin pricks, you have to get to the hospital and get antibiotics. Fiona Robertson: He never had a rash. Nina Sebastiane: He never had a rash because I was going to say, did you think of that at the time was anything that even crossed your mind. Fiona Robertson: It’s very important because it think as parent you don’t know greatly about, meningitis, you just don’t and there's one thing you know is to look out for the glass test. So no, because he didn’t have one there wasn’t even a word I thought off, to be honest. So I think that’s a really important message to parents is don’t assume, it's not meningitis because he got it and he didn’t have a rash. Nina Sebastiane: Well, Fiona, Jude and Julia thank you so much for coming in and explaining all this with us and sharing your story and again, people who are interested 0845-6800 is the number that’s helpline and it’s www.meningitis-trust.org for more information, and say one of these little common symptom cards that you can stick in your valet. Thanks very much for joining us today.