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Best practice on meningitis care

Early diagnosis is the key to saving the lives of children and young people who contract meningitis, according to new guidelines.

The guidance, published by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, sets out best practice in diagnosing and treating potentially fatal invasive meningococcal disease.

The meningococcal organism, which can cause both meningitis and septicaemia, is still a major cause of death among children and young people, although the number of cases has fallen to between 140 and 160 a year.

Up to 10% of those who contract the disease each year die, with most deaths occurring within the first 24 hours, often before patients receive specialist care.

In primary care, the main challenge is singling out the few children with early meningococcal disease from those with other less harmful viral illnesses. It is then vital to ensure effective communication between primary, secondary and paediatric intensive care to ensure rapid treatment in the early phase of the disease.

"Early diagnosis and intervention is the key to ensuring successful treatment and a full recovery," said Dr David Simpson, paediatric consultant at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

"Although this guideline will not eradicate mortality, adherence will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome," he said.

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Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network

Are you up-to-date with the latest guidance for treating meningitis? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"In response to your article, the Meningitis Trust would like to express its support for the introduction of guidelines for managing invasive meningococcal disease, which can cause meningitis and septicaemia.

These guidelines will not only help doctors, but will also benefit parents, carers and anyone else involved in the diagnosis and management of the disease. We welcome any guidance that will assist with the care of patients who have had meningitis. As we work to support anyone who has been affected by meningitis, we know how important this will be to all those concerned.
Your article highlights that the meningococcal organism is still a major cause of death among children and young people, and although the statistics you use are for Scotland only, this may be misleading as you do not state this. We still see approximately 1500 cases of the disease in the UK every year.
The Trust aims to keep meningitis high on the agenda of health professionals and at the forefront of public awareness, to ensure prompt, life saving action is taken and proper care is available to all affected. There will always be meningitis in some form and there will always be people struggling to cope with its after-effects. The Meningitis Trust is dedicated to providing lifelong practical, emotional and financial support to anyone living with the impact of meningitis." - Bridie Taylor, Services and Education Director, Meningitis Trust