With the clocks going back yesterday and winter fast approaching, the UK's longest established meningitis charity - the Meningitis Trust - is warning people to watch out for the signs and symptoms of this life-threatening disease.
Sue Davie, Chief Executive of the Meningitis Trust, which celebrated its 22nd anniversary this month, says:
"Every year we see an increase in cases of meningitis over the winter months. Nearly 60% of the most serious bacterial types occur between now and March, and although the disease affects all ages, over half of those cases will be in children under five.
"Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens our immune systems, leaving us all more vulnerable to meningitis. People are also at increased risk as in winter we tend to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity to others, which means germs are spread more easily."
The early symptoms of meningitis can easily be mistaken for those of flu and include fever, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, drowsiness, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion and in some, but not all cases, a rash. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.
Meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) can affect anyone at any time and can kill within hours. Survivors can be left with disabling after-effects, including brain damage, deafness and, where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs.