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The Chronicle, Thursday, 19th November, 2009. www.chronicleseries.co.uk 9
Be vigilant for meningitis
The head of health protection in the North West has warned
eople to be on their guard against meningitis over the winter.
The infection is more prevalent in the winter months and everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for and
e prepared to take urgent action whenever it is suspected, according to Prof Qutub Syed, director of the Health Protection Agency North West.
Prof Syed said: “We tend to see more cases in the winter months and particularly when fl u is around, as people with fl u are more susceptible to meningococcal infection. People should be
articularly vigilant this year as we have swine fl u in the community in addition to normal seasonal fl u, so there is a lot of infection about.
“People should not be unduly concerned but if you suspect that someone has meningococcal disease, call the doctor immediately. If the doctor isn’t available, take the patient to the nearest accident and emergency department. Prompt action is vital.”
Meningococcal infection is caused by the bacterium (germ) meningococcus. It causes meningitis (infl ammation of the
rain lining) and/or septicaemia (blood poisoning). Infection can occur at any age, though most cases are recorded in children aged nder four. Teenagers aged up to 19 are the next most vulnerable group.
Early symptoms of the disease may include:
● sudden onset of high fever; ● a severe and worsening headache (without any other obvious cause);
● severe neck stiffness; ● dislike of bright lights (photophobia);
● very cold hands and feet; ● drowsiness that can deteriorate into a fever;
● a rash that does not fade when pressed with a glass (due to bleeding under the skin).
Babies with meningococcal disease tend to be irritable when picked up and have a high pitched cry, stiff body and jerking movements.
“The symptoms are not always present and this can be a problem, particularly in identifying the
disease in babies and very young children. If a baby is obviously ill or distressed, parents should seek medical help immediately. Don’t take a chance with a child’s health,” Prof Syed added.
Further information on meningococcal infection is available from the Meningitis Trust on 0845 6000 800 or at meningitistrust.org; the Meningitis Research
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Foundation on 0808 800 3344 or meningitis.org or NHS Direct, the 24-hour nurse advice and health information service on 0845 4647.
A vaccine against meningococcal C infection has been available since 1999 and all parents and guardians are strongly advised to ensure that their children have the lifelong protection it affords against that particular disease. The vaccine is available to anyone up to the age of 25.
Sunbed ban for U18s call backed by health agency
Cancer Research UK’s call for a ban on the use of sunbeds by the under 18s has been welcomed by The Health Protection Agency North West.
The agency advises that sunbeds should be off limits to the under 18s and should not be used for cosmetic tanning.
Prof Qutub Syed, director of the agency in the North West, said: “Sunbeds cause tanning
and can cause sunburn. There is no evidence to suggest any type of sunbed is less harmful than natural sun exposure. Sunbeds should never be used by anyone under 18 years of age.”
The agency also advises that if people do want to use sunbeds then they should visit facilities that give appropriate guidance about the skin-types of people who should not use the equipment.
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