Meningitis Now’s fifth annual Viral Meningitis Week, between May 1 and 7, seeks to raise awareness to inform the public, health professionals and employers about the true impact of the disease and the long-term problems it can bring.
Expert opinion suggests up to 6,000 people each year across the UK suffer from viral meningitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. The majority of cases happen during the warmer months.
Symptoms of viral meningitis can include a severe headache, a dislike of bright lights, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting and confusion. The disease can affect anyone of any age.
Meningitis Now is urging anyone concerned about viral meningitis to seek medical help.
Research carried out by the charity details the far-reaching impact of viral meningitis, often dismissed as a less serious disease than bacterial meningitis.
Debilitating after-effects were just as likely to affect people’s day-to-day activities as were those from bacterial meningitis, turning their emotional and economic lives upside down and stealing their ability to learn, play and work.
After-effects include exhaustion, headaches, memory loss, depression, anxiety and hearing difficulties. Many sufferers have to take long periods off education or work, and struggle with the day-to-day tasks that most people take for granted.
The charity has pledged to continue to raise awareness about viral meningitis and provide support for sufferers, including access to complementary therapies. It is also looking to provide e-learning materials for pharmacists, encourage healthcare professionals to carry out follow-up appointments and develop further research.
Viral meningitis cannot be treated with antibiotics. Rehydration, painkillers and plenty of rest are the best remedy.
Most people will make a full recovery but the process can be slow. The majority of sufferers no longer experience after-effects six months after their illness, but for some the effects can be lifelong.
Mark Hunt, director of communications and marketing at Meningitis Now, said: “It’s vital that everybody understands how serious viral meningitis can be and seek the support they need.”
Visit www.meningitisnow.org or contact the helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or [email protected]