Meningitis Now staff - Jane Blewitt

The impact of meningitis during the coronavirus pandemic

Jane Blewitt | 16th May 2020

Anyone who has been affected by meningitis, or meningococcal septicaemia, whether personally, within a family or in a wider group of friends or colleagues, will understand the devastating impact it can have

Impact of meningitis during the coronavirus pandemic

The speed at which this life-threatening infectious disease often develops, and the uncertainty surrounding the short and longer-term outcomes can have life-long consequences.

Even for those who make a good recovery, the reality of being fit and healthy one day but seriously ill in hospital the next can cause fear and anxiety about being ill again. Survivors left with life-changing after-effects will face a very different future to the one they had planned. Sadly, some people do not survive and their family and friends face a future without a loved one.

The current COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a new coronavirus, is having a huge impact on our everyday lives, leading to understandable concern about our own health and that of our families and friends. 

However, it isn’t just our physical health that could be affected. Limited contact with friends and family, children unable to go to school, changes to working life, and concern for the future of jobs and financial security will have an impact on our emotional well- being and the way we are able to cope. For people who have experienced meningitis, whether recently or in the past, this new threat to our health could be causing additional anxiety or triggering memories of their own illness. 

As a charity with over 30 years’ experience in supporting people affected by meningitis we have noticed several similarities in the impact of COVID-19. Both are potentially life-threatening infectious diseases with variable, uncertain and sometimes devastating outcomes. The early signs of illness can be non-specific, causing concern about whether, or when, to seek medical help. 

Although ‘at risk’ groups are identified for each illness, either one can affect anyone. Leaving hospital following treatment for a life-threatening illness, especially if someone has needed critical care, can be very frightening. Concerns about the recovery process, being ill again and how to get help can cause anxiety in both the person who has been ill and their carers.

At the moment, most of the news and information we receive is centred around the coronavirus pandemic; the number of people dying, whether the NHS can cope, the impact on the economy and whether we will safely be able to return to our previous ways of life. 

This constant stream of often negative news and uncertainty can cause not only anxiety about the current situation, but also be a reminder of difficult, emotional times in the past. If you have been affected by meningitis, either recently or in the past, Meningitis Now is still here to support you. Our helpline is still open; call 0808 80 10 388 or email (9.00am - 4.00pm Monday to Friday, otherwise contact us on social media, links below), and although we can’t currently offer our usual range of services, we can still provide individualised support and information.

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