MP Sharon Hodgson is backing a national call to raise awareness of adult meningitis and septicaemia.
Sharon, who is the Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and the Shadow Minister for Public Health, is taking a leading role in national awareness campaign – Adults Get It Too - to help protect older people’s health in their constituency.
She pledged her support to promoting meningitis awareness with GPs and community organisations, following a Parliamentary reception organised by charity Meningitis Now.
The charity used the reception to launch its campaign which aims to inform and educate adults of the risks they face from meningitis and the actions they can take to look after themselves.
A survey carried out as part of the campaign reveals that 95% of people aged over 55 do not consider meningitis and septicaemia to be a threat, despite the fact that the risk of bacterial meningitis rises in older adults.
The study also highlights that three-quarters of this group are not confident in recognising the signs and symptoms of the disease.
Vaccines that protect against some types of meningitis and septicaemia are given to babies, children and young people, but most over 55s will not have had these vaccines.
Sharon said: “As Shadow Minister for Public Health, it was a pleasure to host Meningitis Now’s reception in Parliament, and learn more about the brilliant work they are doing in raising awareness of meningitis in adults.
"The popular misconception is that meningitis and septicaemia only affect babies and young children, but this is not the case.
“Our attention should still focus on the young, but it is vital that we ensure that those over 24, and especially those aged over 55, know that they could be at risk too.
“Therefore, as we enter the peak season for bacterial meningitis I will be raising awareness within this older age group, who are probably more concerned about their children or grandchildren’s health than their own.”
Case numbers in the older age group are on the increase too, particularly amongst those aged over 65, where reported cases have doubled over the past five years.
Early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicemia can be similar to flu, tummy bug or a hangover and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever with cold hands and feet.
More specific signs and symptoms include drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash, which doesn’t fade under pressure.
Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive of Meningitis Now, said: “We welcome Sharon’s strong stand and support in persuading older people in Washington and Sunderland West to take this simple step to look after their health.”
Meningitis Now’s Adults Get It Too campaign is calling on adults to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease by calling 01453 768000 or going online at www.meningitisnow.org/adults to request an awareness pack, that includes a signs and symptoms card, leaflet and window sticker.