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Frequently asked questions

What is meningits?

After effects caused by meningitis

What are the figures?

Who is at risk?

Is it treatable?

What about vaccines?

Is it not just a rash?

What should I be telling my audience?

If I interview a case study who may need your support, what should i do?

Have you got a fact box?


What is meningitis?

  • Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes (layers of tissue) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.
  • It is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
  •  The bacteria that commonly cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning).
  • Bacterial meningitis can kill, so urgent medical attention is essential.
  • Viral meningitis makes people very ill but it is rarely life-threatening.

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After effects caused by meningitis?

Meningitis can cause injury to the brain, which can lead to various after-effects:

  • 15% of those who survive meningitis will be left with severe after-effects including brain damage, hearing and sight loss and where septicaemia has occurred, limb loss and scarring.
  • 10% of cases result in death.
  • Most people will make a good recovery from meningitis and septicaemia.
  • Septicaemia can cause wide spread damage to the whole body, resulting in organ failure, extensive scarring and limb loss.

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What are the figures?

•    There could be up to 20 cases of meningitis a day.
•    Every three days a child will die.
•    It can kill in less than four hours.
•    Every year there are 2,500 cases of bacterial meningitis (the potentially deadly type).
•    It is estimated that there are around 5,000 cases of viral meningitis each year.
•    Within hours, lives can be devastated;
•    10% of bacterial cases will result in death.
•    About 15% of people will be left with permanent disabilities.
•    One in four adults in the UK know of someone who has had meningitis.
•    500,000 people living in the UK today have had either bacterial or viral meningitis.

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Who is at risk?

•Most cases occur in the under 5s, teenagers, young adults and the over 55s. 

•However, anyone can contract meningitis.

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Is it treatable? 

Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia require rapid admission to hospital and urgent treatment with antibiotics. If treated promptly, meningitis and septicaemia are less likely to become life-threatening. 

Viral meningitis is rarely life-threatening, but symptoms can be very similar to those of bacterial meningitis. Until bacterial meningitis has been ruled out, patients may be treated with antibiotics. Once viral meningitis has been diagnosed patients often return home, needing plenty of rest, fluids and pain relief.

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What about vaccines?

We are the only charity that has played a significant part in developing and introducing all three meningitis vaccines into the Childhood Immunisation Programme. 

Effective vaccines are available to prevent some types of meningitis, but not all, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.

There is still no vaccine to prevent meningococcal group B disease, which is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK. Development of an effective vaccine is now a major priority and experts believe this should be achievable in the next few years.

Many other bacteria, viruses and fungi also cause meningitis which at present can’t be prevented by vaccination. It is essential that everyone knows the signs and symptoms to look for, and how to get urgent medical help.

You can download our factsheet for more information about meningitis vaccines.

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Is it not just the rash?

Up to 34 million adults in the UK are risking death believing that the main symptom of meningitis is a rash, that’s 71% of the adults in the country. With 20 cases a day and every three days a child will die. . We need your help to combat this belief, to save lives. 

The rash, that does not fade under pressure (a sign of blood poisoning), does not always appear. When it does, it can be one of the last symptoms to be displayed and often too late.

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What should I be telling my audience? 

•Don’t suffer in silence – we are committed to improving the lives of people affected, so will always be here to help. 

•Meningitis can affect people of all ages, not just babies and children

•The after-effects of meningitis can be life-changing

•Meningitis is still an issue in the UK, killing and maiming hundreds of people every year

•Know the signs and symptoms - vaccines don’t protect from all types of meningitis and the rash doesn’t always appear.  As a disease which can kill in four hours, our message is to remain vigilant, take quick action and trust your instincts

•If people need support after meningitis, they can contact us 24 hours a day on 0800 028 18 28.

•We don’t have waiting lists; people can get our support as soon as they need us.

•We are a charity which relies on donations to continue our work, so ask people to donate - every pound really does make a difference.

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If I interview a case study who may need your support, what should I do? 

•Pass on our helpline number 0800 028 18 28 or web address.

•Explain that we will help them and will never turn people away.

•If they are happy for us to call them, just let us know.

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Have you got a fact box?

If you want to add some further information on meningitis to your story, feel free to use this fact box. 

About meningitis

•Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain.

•Every year there are around 2,500 cases of meningitis reported in the UK and approximately 5,000 cases of viral.

•10% of bacterial meningitis cases will result in death and an estimated 15% of those who survive will be left with life-changing after-effects.

•Viral meningitis is rarely life-threatening.

•Over 50% of all meningitis cases occur in babies and children under five.

•Vaccines are available to protect against some causes of bacterial meningitis such as pneumococcal, Hib and meningococcal group C. There is no vaccine available against the most common cause of bacterial meningitis, meningococcal group B.

•The only way to protect yourself and others against meningitis is to know the symptoms and act quickly – getting medical help immediately if you suspect the disease. 

•For information and support call Meningitis Now on 0800 028 18 28 or visit or download the iPhone app

Symptoms information

•Symptoms of meningitis can include a fever (possibly with cold hands and feet), vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, joint or muscle pain, drowsiness and confusion. If septicaemia is present, there may also be a rash that does not fade under pressure. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all.

•As babies and young children can’t say how they’re feeling, it’s important to look out for other symptoms in this age group, including an unusual high pitched cry, dislike of being handled, blotchy skin, a bulging fontanelle, a blank staring expression and refusing feeds.

•The rash that is commonly associated with meningitis, and is a sign of septicaemia, doesn’t always appear or it may appear late. Knowing the other symptoms of meningitis saves lives.

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Real-life stories

Watch the stories of people affected by meningitis and see how the Meningitis Trust has helped.

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How we help

We offer the largest range of free professional services and community based support for people affected by meningitis, which includes:


Please don't hesitate to get in touch to find out how to access these services, or if you would like any information.

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