Adults get meningitis too

31st October 2018

A new survey released today reveals that 95% of people aged over 55 do not consider themselves to be at risk from deadly meningitis and septicaemia, despite the fact that cases of the disease increase in older adults

Adults get meningitis too blog

The study, carried out for us by Populous, also highlights the worrying fact 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.

We’re using these findings as part of our new national awareness campaign – Adults Get It Too – to inform and educate adults of the risks they face and the actions they can take to look after themselves and their loved ones.

Cause for concern

Launching the campaign at our reception for MPs at the House of Commons, our Chief Executive, Dr Tom Nutt, said, “These findings are a cause for concern."

“The popular misconception is that meningitis and septicaemia only affect babies and young children. Many in this older age group may be more concerned about their children or grandchildren."

“We need to scotch this myth once and for all. Anyone of any age can get meningitis, with the risk increasing in older adults.”

Cases on the increase

Case numbers in older age groups are on the increase too, particularly amongst those aged over 65, where reported cases have doubled over the past five years.*

“This combination of increasing risk and lack of awareness is putting older people at risk from this devastating disease”, Tom added.

Our Adults Get It Too campaign is calling on adults to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease by ordering a free meningitis awareness pack or requesting a downloadable guide.

Married and widowed in the same year

The campaign is being supported by Michelle Jackson, who lost her husband Stuart to meningitis just before Christmas last year.

Stuart, 56, from Warrington in Cheshire, fell ill in early December and appeared to be making progress before taking a turn for the worse.

“My life has changed completely without my husband,” Michelle said. “We only got married in February 2017 although we had been together for ten years – married and widowed in the same year."

“My whole future has been wiped out and I need to try and find a new one without him. This is devastating and very difficult to get my head around."

Learn the signs and symptoms

“It’s so important that people our age know about this disease and the impact it can have – learn the signs and symptoms to help look after yourself and your loved ones.”

Early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to ‘flu, tummy bug or a hangover and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps 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.

As well as a targeted social media campaign we’ll undertake a national advertising campaign and provide resources for GP surgeries, community centres and workplaces.

We’ll also work with MPs, pharmacists, councillors and community leaders to help spread awareness. 

The research findings

Populous Research undertook a survey of 1,100 adults across the UK to understand adult attitudes to meningitis and the level of risk they think the disease poses to them. Key findings are:

  • 95% of people aged over 55 do not consider themselves to be at risk from meningitis; and
  • 75% of those aged over 55 do not know the signs and symptoms of the disease.

What should I do now?

If you’re over 55, request an awareness pack that includes a signs and symptoms card, leaflet and window sticker or download an awareness guide. If you’re under 55, pass this message on to an older friend or relative.

*Public Health England Health Protection Report 2017 Published October 2017. Meningococcal disease incidence 1998 to 2017. Age 65 plus, 78 cases in 2012-13; 175 cases in 2016-17.