Know the signs - adults can get meningitis too, says Wearside survivor

Meningitis survivor Vivienne Bell with husband Richard.
Meningitis survivor Vivienne Bell with husband Richard.
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A meningitis survivor from Wearside is backing a campaign to remind the public that not just children can contract the killer illness.

Vivienne Bell, from Washington, is joining forces with international charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) this summer to warn the public that “Adults get meningitis too”.

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – the meninges, while septicaemia is blood poisoning caused by the same bugs and can be more life-threatening.

Septicaemia can occur with or without meningitis.

MRF estimates that there are around 3,200 cases of meningitis and septicaemia every year in the UK. 

They are easily mistaken for milder illnesses, but can kill within hours or cause lifelong disabilities. As many as one in 10 of those affected will die and a third of survivors will be left with after-effects, some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness and hearing loss.

Many people believe meningitis can only be contracted during the winter months and affects mainly babies and students, but they can strike anyone, of any age, at any time.

Former hairdresser and mum-of-three Viv was first struck down by the disease in 1983. After spending seven weeks in hospital, she successfully beat it – only for it to return in 2008.

“I am supporting MRF’s campaign because I contracted meningococcal septicaemia in May 2008 when I was 56 years old,” said Viv.

“The doctor said I was 97 per cent dead when I was taken to hospital, I was in a coma for 12 weeks and Intensive Care for 13 weeks and as a result I lost both legs from the knee down as well as my fingers and the use of one hand.”

Christopher Head, MRF chief executive, said: “As Viv is well aware, meningitis and septicaemia are diseases that can leave a baby, child or adult fighting for their life within hours of the first symptoms.

“Both meningitis and septicaemia can be hard to recognise, as the early symptoms are similar to those of many other milder illnesses.

“More specific symptoms can appear in any order. 

“Don’t be complacent if a loved one is sick – knowing the symptoms and acting fast can save a life.

“If anyone has any concerns we urge you to trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice.”

For information on meningitis and septicaemia, call the free helpline on 080 8800 3344, visit www.meningitis.org or download the free app from iTunes ‘Meningitis – Know the Symptoms’.