Meningitis is an inflammation (swelling) of the lining of the
brain. It can be caused by viruses or bacteria.
The bacteria which cause meningitis and
meningococcal disease are spread by coughing, sneezing or direct
contact such as kissing. The disease can develop very rapidly,
sometimes within a matter of hours. The biggest problem is that most
of the early symptoms are mild and similar to those you get with flu
Key symptoms include:
dislike of bright lights;
detailed information of the
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms,
get medical help immediately.
Do not wait
until the following day. Whilst not all cases are fatal, death can
occur in as little as 12 hours.
Meningitis can kill and early
treatment saves lives.
What to do in an emergency
If you need to see a doctor urgently out of surgery hours or at
weekends or vacation time, please contact the practice you are
registered with or NHS Direct on 0845 4647
Further information on meningitis is available at:
Meningitis Research Foundation
(this site provides information in a range of languages)
There are two national meningitis helplines which
are also happy to answer ‘over the phone enquiries’, tel
0808 800 3344 or 0808 80 10 388.
Anyone attending university, whatever their age, should be immunised
before they enrol or as soon as possible thereafter.
The vaccine is given by injection. It has been routinely given to
children under one since November 1999, and a ‘catching-up’ exercise
took place to try and ensure that other young people had the
injection too. If you have had the new MenC vaccine before you will
not need it again. However, if you think that you may have been
missed out (or you are not sure whether you had the new vaccine
–before November 1999) you should contact your doctor straight away
to check and (if necessary) book an appointment to have the
vaccination – adults and children over 1 will only need one jab.
The MenC vaccine will protect you against one of the most common
types of meningitis, but will not protect against all types of the
disease. So it’s very important that you know the signs and symptoms
of meningitis and septicaemia.
Emergencies and out of hours
If you need medical advice outside of surgery opening hours please
ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit