Don’t ignore viral meningitis - make viral visible

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The UK’s leading meningitis charity is calling for those who have suffered from the viral form of the disease to ‘Make Viral Visible’ to help dispel myths and misconceptions that this form of the disease is not dangerous and always ‘mild’.

Meningitis Now’s fifth annual Viral Meningitis Week, between May 1 and 7, seeks to raise awareness to inform the public, health professionals and employers about the true impact of the disease and the long-term problems it can bring.

Expert opinion suggests up to 6,000 people each year across the UK suffer from viral meningitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. The majority of cases happen during the warmer months.

Symptoms of viral meningitis can include a severe headache, a dislike of bright lights, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting and confusion. The disease can affect anyone of any age.

Meningitis Now is urging anyone concerned about viral meningitis to seek medical help.

Research carried out by the charity details the far-reaching impact of viral meningitis, often dismissed as a less serious disease than bacterial meningitis.

Debilitating after-effects were just as likely to affect people’s day-to-day activities as were those from bacterial meningitis, turning their emotional and economic lives upside down and stealing their ability to learn, play and work.

After-effects include exhaustion, headaches, memory loss, depression, anxiety and hearing difficulties. Many sufferers had to take long periods off education or work, and struggle with the day-to-day tasks that most people take for granted.

The charity has pledged to continue to raise awareness about viral meningitis and provide support for sufferers, including access to complementary therapies. It is also looking to provide e-learning materials for pharmacists, encourage healthcare professionals to carry out follow-up appointments and develop and support further research.

Viral meningitis cannot be treated with antibiotics. Rehydration, painkillers and plenty of rest are the best remedy. Most people will make a full recovery but the process can be slow. The majority of sufferers no longer experience after-effects six months after their illness but for some the effects can be lifelong.

Mark Hunt, Director of Communications and Marketing at Meningitis Now, said: “It’s vital that everybody understands how serious viral meningitis can be and that those suffering it, and their families and friends who are also affected, are not afraid to speak out about it and seek the support they need.

“For our Viral Meningitis Week we’re calling on everyone to Make Viral Visible – and help raise awareness by talking about the disease.”

The charity has free viral meningitis factsheets, providing more information for patients, health professionals and employers. They can be found on the website at www.meningitisnow.org

Meningitis Now is also keen to promote its range of free services for sufferers of viral meningitis, including funding complementary therapies, counselling and peer support.

If you have been affected by viral meningitis or would like more information, visit www.meningitisnow.org or contact the helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or helpline@meningitisnow.org

Meningitis and Me: The devastating and life-long impact of a brutal disease; Meningitis Now and Alterline, November 2015.

For more information or to donate visit www.meningitisnow.org