PEOPLE were warned yesterday not to confuse the signs of meningitis with the after-effects of a heavy night of drinking.
Headaches, vomiting, confusion and aching limbs are all symptoms of the deadly disease, which can kill in under four hours.
People are most at risk from meningitis during the winter months, when weakened immune systems and circulating germs encourage it to strike.
Youngsters up to the age of 24 are particularly vulnerable to the bug. Close contact like kissing and sneezing can also help the bacteria to spread.
Steve Dayman, chief executive of Meningitis UK, warned people not to overlook hangover-type symptoms that could actually be meningitis.
“While we want people to go out and enjoy themselves, we urge them not to just dismiss feeling ill for a hangover,” he said.
“We’ve sadly come across tragic cases where students have gone to bed to sleep off a hangover, and have later been found either dangerously ill or dead in the morning.
“People’s immune systems may also be weakened as swine flu spreads.
“This coupled with lack of sleep, stress, the colder weather and poor diet means the winter months are a key time for people to be alert.”
Classic meningitis symptoms in adults are a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light.
Other symptoms can include difficulty supporting own weight, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea and confusion and drowsiness.
Symptoms that may exist with meningococcal septicaemia – the blood poisoning type – include aching limbs, cold hands and feet, and a rash which starts like pin prick marks but rapidly develops into purple bruising.
Dayman said: “I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to tell someone if you’re feeling rough.
“And, if you notice a friend’s under the weather, stick around to make sure their condition doesn’t deteriorate. If it does, call an ambulance immediately.”
Meningitis kills about 300 people a year and leaves hundreds more disabled. Some 3,000 cases of meningitis are recorded every year in Britain.
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