Significant numbers of people are dying unnecessarily from meningitis because they think a rash is the main or only symptom, a poll has revealed.
Around 71% of more than 1,300 adults questioned believed a rash was the most prominent indicator, while 11% could list no symptoms at all.
The Meningitis Trust, which carried out the poll, says that a rash which will not fade under pressure is an important sign of blood poisoning, but does not always appear.
When it finally does, it is often one of the final symptoms to arrive and it is frequently "too late".
The charity said meningitis can start with flu-like symptoms including a fever, headache, vomiting and muscle pain.
Other signs are a fever along with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, a dislike of bright lights and seizures.
Babies are often floppy and unresponsive, dislike being touched and suffer rapid breathing or have a moaning cry.
The soft spot on the top of their head may also bulge.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the charity, said people must "not wait for a rash".
She added: "By thinking meningitis is just a rash, people are dying. It is time the public takes notice and makes a fight against this terrifying, deadly disease."
Copyright © Press Association 2010
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