The Meningitis Trust is issuing a warning as children start back at school for the new autumn/winter term.
The end of September is the start of the peak season for meningitis so the national charity is urging all parents, students and teachers to be vigilant of the signs and symptoms.
While children under five are most at risk for meningitis, teenagers and students (aged 15 – 23 years) are the second most at risk group.
It is estimated that 10 per cent of the population carry the organism which causes meningitis, but this increases to up to 30 per cent for teenagers and young people.
The risk of meningitis increases during the colder months as people spend more time indoors, closer to others; meaning germs are spread more easily.
Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust, said: “Meningitis can be a difficult disease to spot, particularly at this time of year, as many of its early symptoms can be similar to those of flu. We urge everyone to familiarise themselves with the symptoms, trust their instincts and get urgent medical help if concerned. Doing this could save yours or a loved one’s life.”
Every year 3,400 cases of bacterial meningitis are reported in the UK – leaving 10 per cent dead and 15 per cent of those who survive with severe after-effects such as brain damage, loss of hearing and sight and, where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs and scarring. It’s a disease which can strike in minutes and kill within hours, so knowledge of the symptoms, vigilance and quick action is vital.