Vomiting, seizures and cold hands and feet among the least known symptoms associated with meningococcal meningitis, according to GSK survey of Irish parents1 New survey shows 42% of parents in Ireland cannot identify any types of meningococcal meningitis that are preventable by vaccination1

GSK marks World Meningitis Day with launch of ‘Know Meningitis’ campaign to generate awareness of the

disease and offer advice on how to spot the signs and symptoms

A new survey conducted by GSK shows that while almost all surveyed parents (95%) have heard of meningitis1, many are still unaware of the range of symptoms associated with the disease.

A rash is the most commonly associated symptom of meningitis (84%), followed by a stiff neck (73%) and dislike of bright light or headache (both 66%). However, there are a number of symptoms which the majority of parents do not relate to the disease, including vomiting (39%), convulsions / seizures (23%), and cold hands and feet (21%).1

To mark World Meningitis Day on Wednesday 24 April, GSK has launched the Know Meningitis campaign on social media platforms, an initiative aimed at raising awareness of the disease, which is rare but potentially fatal. Information about who is at risk, the signs and symptoms of the disease and how best to protect family members is available at www.knowmeningitis.ie.

The survey of 375 parents in Ireland was conducted as part of GSK’s campaign and half of respondents (50%) reported that they ‘know of someone’ or ‘know someone’ who has had meningitis.1 

Just over a third (37%) of surveyed parents are not aware of any of the major types of meningococcal meningitis (A,B,C,W,X,Y). Less than half (46%) of parents said they were aware of meningococcal B disease (MenB) and just under a third (32%) said they were aware of meningococcal C disease(MenC)1 – MenB and MenC account for the majority of disease in Ireland.2 There were also extremely low levels of knowledge of MenW (2%), MenX (1%) and MenY (1%).1

Those surveyed are most likely to consider babies and children under-five as being most at risk of contracting meningococcal meningitis, while only a quarter (25%) of those surveyed believe 15-19-year-olds are one of the high-risk groups, even though a peak in disease activity is also seen among this age group.3

The findings of the survey also point to confusion among parents about which vaccines their children have received through the national immunisation programme. Surveyed parents of 15-19 year olds reported that 62% of those children had received the meningococcal B vaccination as part of the HSE vaccination programme,1 even though it is not available through the programme for that age group.4

The Know Meningitis campaign provides parents and carers the information they need to better understand the disease, how to spot signs and symptoms and how it can be prevented.

It also aims to increase understanding around preventative actions that can be taken to protect against meningitis and to raise awareness that no single vaccine protects against all types of meningococcal meningitis. It is important to remember that whilst there are vaccines available to protect against some types of meningitis and septicaemia, there isno single vaccine to protect against all types of meningitis, so awareness of the signs and symptoms is key.2

Dr Philip Cruz, GSK’s Vaccines Medical Director for the UK and Ireland, commented: “While the survey shows that rash is perceived to be the most commonly associated symptom of meningitis, it is important that parents and carers are aware that the disease is not just having a rash that won’t go away. Some cases may not present with rash at all in the early stages. Parents and carers should ensure they are informed, and most importantly trust their instincts.”

Siobhan Carroll, CEO of ACT for Meningitis, added: “After the alarming statistics highlighted in the GSK survey on World Meningitis Day, ACT for Meningitis implore people to get to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis, ensure your children’s vaccinations are up to date and trust your instincts if you suspect meningitis and seek medical help immediately.”

More interesting statistics from the survey include:

  • A rash is the most commonly associated symptom of meningitis (84% say this), followed by stiff neck (73%) and dislike of bright light or headache (both 66%).
  • Only 39% of parents surveyed associate vomiting with meningitis and just 21% of parents surveyed associate cold hands and feet with meningitis.
  • Just over a third (37%) of parents surveyed associate confusion and irritability with meningitis and just 23% associate convulsions / seizures with the disease.
  • Women are more likely than men to be aware of any individual type of meningococcal meningitis (A,B,C,W,X,Y) (73% vs 46%).
  • 35% of parents with children aged 15-19 consider that age group to be one of those at highest risk.
  • Parents surveyed report that three quarters of those children aged between 10 and 19 years (76%) are up-to-date with the School Vaccination Programme.