Worcestershire health team backs meningitis vaccine

By Tristan Harris Thursday 27 March 2014 Updated: 27/03 23:24

THE TEAM responsible for pubilc health in Worcestershire has welcomed the announcement that the potentially life-saving Meningitis B vaccine will become available on the NHS.

It comes as figures from the Meningitis Now charity show, on average, 1,870 people each year in the UK contract the infection which can kill in a matter of hours.

That amount is one of the highest incedence rates in the world.

The statistics also illustrate how, since it was licensed in January last year, 675 cases of the most common form of bacterial meningitis in the UK could have been prevented by the MenB jab and 200 people's lives could have been saved in that time.

Meningitis - the inflamation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord - is usuall caused by bacteria or viruses.

Scepticaemia, which is blood poisoning, often happens at the same time.

Negotiations are underway for the revolutionary Bexsero, which will hopefully be included in the childhood immunisation schedule and be free to babies from two months.

Dr Ash Banerjee, the screening and immunisation lead at Public Health England and NHS England, told The Standard: "The Arden, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Area Team welcomes the announcement on the MenB immunisation programme.

"It will be introduced in Worcestershire in line with national implementation plans and is dependent on national agreement on a cost-effective price being negotiated for the vaccine."

Meningitis Now founder Steve Dayman MBE, who launched the UK’s meningitis movement after losing his baby Spencer to Meningitis B in 1982, described it as the most monumental announcement in the fight against the disease in the 31 years he had campaigned to eradicate it.

“It is the decision we’ve pushed for, to have the Meningitis B vaccine given free to all infants.

"There is no doubt that it will save thousands of lives and spare survivors and their families the pain of living with life-changing after-effects."

Signs of meningitis and septicaemia include flu symptoms, including fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain. There are also some more specific meningitis symptoms, such as fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which doesn’t fade under pressure.

In babies, symptoms can also include being floppy and unresponsive, dislike of being handled, rapid breathing, an unusual, moaning cry and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).

There are an estimated 3,400 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia each year in the UK. One in ten people die and at least a third will be left with lifelong after-effects such as hearing loss, epilepsy, limb loss or learning difficulties

Although meningitis and septicaemia can affect anyone, of any age, at any time, babies and young children are most at risk, along with young people between 15 and 24.

For more information visit www.MeningitisNow.org or call the meningitis helpline 0808 80 10 388.

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