Posted: Thu 23rd Oct 2014

New report on meningitis stresses the importance of early diagnosis.

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 23rd, 2014

A new report on meningitis stresses the importance of early diagnosis and of keeping up-to-date with vaccinations in reducing child deaths from the disease.

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The Rapid Response on deaths of children from meningitis and meningococcal disease in Wales report is published by the Child Death Review Programme for Wales.

It identifies key recommendations from sources such as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the Meningitis Research Foundation, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the College of Emergency Medicine.

The report describes how meningitis can be difficult to diagnose, as early symptoms, such as a fever or rash, are common to many other illnesses.

Encountering the disease is also rare, with a full-time GP in Wales seeing, on average, one case every 17 years.

However, a substantial amount of guidance is available to health professionals.

Advice is also available to the public and parents from NHS Direct Wales and charities such as Meningitis Now.

Vaccination also plays a major role, with a number of vaccines that can prevent many types of meningitis available to children as part of the NHS vaccination schedule. These include:

  • The MMR vaccine
  • The 5-in-1 vaccine which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • The Meningitis C vaccine
  • The pneumococcal vaccine

Since the introduction of the 5-in-1 vaccine in 1992, cases of Hib meningitis in children have virtually disappeared in Wales. Following the introduction of the meningitis C vaccination in 1999, the number of cases of this disease greatly reduced and only one meningococcal infection between 2003 and 2012 in a child was due to group C.

Following the introduction of the pneumococcal meningitis vaccine in 2006 there has been a substantial decline in pneumococcal meningitis in children aged less than five years.

One of the report’s authors, Dr Ciaran Humphreys, Consultant in Public Health and Deputy Director of the Public Health Wales Observatory, said,

“Early symptoms of meningitis are similar to many other common illnesses and so diagnosing the disease can be challenging.

“However, there is a lot of guidance available and healthcare professionals – as well as parents and carers – must always be alert to the dangers of the disease.

“There is clear evidence that vaccinations have been extremely successful in preventing certain types of meningitis, and so it is also hugely important to ensure the current vaccination programme for children is effectively implemented

The report can be found here: Rapid response on deaths of children from  meningitis and meningococcal disease in Wales

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