Wednesday 11 December 2019

'Lucky to be alive' - knowing signs of meningitis can save your life

Warning: Adam Bruton was affected by meningitis. Photo: Mark Condren
Warning: Adam Bruton was affected by meningitis. Photo: Mark Condren

Arlene Harris

Young adults are the second most at-risk group when it comes to meningitis - the infection that causes swelling of the brain lining and spinal cord.

But early signs of infection in this group are often ignored, because they can be similar to flu or a hangover.

As the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) launches its Christmas campaign, its experts are urging everyone to know the symptoms.

Adam Bruton (27) knows only too well how dangerous the virus can be: three years ago, he took to his bed with what he believed to be flu.

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After two days of taking over-the-counter remedies, his symptoms worsened to the extent that he asked his mother to drive him to the local out-of-hours doctor.

"I could no longer stand the pain," he said. "I struggled to get into the car and every speed bump in the road jolted through me."

The doctor diagnosed a stiff neck and strained back and sent him home after an injection of Valium.

"I went back to bed, still feeling awful and, in the meantime, my dad rang our GP who, upon hearing my symptoms, advised me to get to hospital immediately.

"He said he would call ahead to let them know I had suspected meningitis. This is when it became really scary."

Adam, who works in aviation, was seen straight away by a doctor who performed a lumbar puncture and put him in isolation.

"My condition was vigorously monitored every 30-40 minutes and after about 36 hours the results came back confirming meningitis," he said. "I was in hospital for three weeks." Adam has since made a full recovery but says he is lucky to be alive.

The MRF is urging people to be familiar with the symptoms of meningitis and not to hesitate to take action if at all concerned.

"In 2018, there were 96 cases of meningococcal disease and bacterial meningitis," said Vinny Smith, MRF CEO.

"Early symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights or confusion."

Tell-tale signs in babies include high temperature, listlessness or a stereotypical rash.

More details on the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be found at:  www.meningitis.org

Irish Independent

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