ONE in ten young people have not heard of meningitis, the potentially lethal disease that also leaves survivors with brain damage, deafness and multiple amputations.
Launching a campaign to warn students of the signs of the disease, the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) wants teens, who are the second highest at risk group for contracting meningitis, to spot the vital symptoms of the disease which are similar to the flu or a hangover.
Broadcaster Claire Byrne, who was given the last rites when she was struck with the killer disease in 1990, has backed the campaign.
“For me to escape with no damage to my hearing, my sight, no limb loss, no brain damage, it’s just so fortunate because I was seriously ill,” she said.
“I can’t believe how lucky I was. Sometimes you have that survivor guilt where you think, how on earth did I come through unscathed from this?”
Young adults are twice as likely to carry the bacteria that cause meningitis – which is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – and septicaemia, the blood poisoning form of the disease.
Up to 300 cases of the conditions are recorded each year, with up to 10% of patients dying. A further 20% of survivors are left with serious after-effects.
The MRF unveiled a new free video message service for mobile phone users to boost awareness of meningitis and its symptoms by free texting TIME to 50308.
Posters have also been created for colleges nationwide to make students learn the symptoms, which include fever, vomiting, dislike of bright lights and neck stiffness and a rash.
One to mark National Meningitis Awareness Week reads: 8am: Hungover? 10am: Feeling worse, 4pm: Hospital, 10pm: Died from meningitis.
Clodagh Hegarty, MRF medical information officer, said some of the signs of meningitis are also very similar to somebody being drunk or having taking drugs.
“Their friends might think they are just a bit jarred, but they could be quite ill. We are trying to get the message across that if you are worried about a friend, called our helpline.”
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