Babies and children * First aid

Swine flu meningitis warning

sore neck can be symptom of meningitis Meningitis cases may rise

As the swine flu pandemic gathers pace, so could the incidence of meningitis, warns the Meningitis Research Foundation.

As the early symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia are very similar to those of the flu, meningitis cases may be missed. Anyone who is feeling unwell with fever, headache and flu-like symptoms is most likely to have flu, say the charity, but people need to know the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia in case the illness gets worse.

Meningitis can kill within hours, so any delay in its diagnosis, coupled with the rapid progress of the disease, can be fatal

In addition, having the flu can make people more vulnerable to meningitis and septicaemia. Flu outbreaks are typically followed by more cases of meningitis, and in severe cases the flu virus can cause viral meningitis or septicaemia.

“With swine flu cases on the increase, there could be more cases of meningitis and septicaemia. Spotting meningitis symptoms early can save lives," said Christopher Head, MRF chief executive.

Red flag early warning symptoms

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Severe pain in the limbs and joints
  • Pale or mottled skin
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights

These early symptoms can often be confused with the flu. Later symptoms of meningitis include headache, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and drowsiness.

Meningococcal septicaemia has a distinctive rash which initially resembles pin prick spots and rapidly develops into purple bruising. To test for septicaemia, press a glass on the rash. If it doesn't fade, contact your doctor or go to an Accident and Emergency Department immediately.

“At MRF we don’t want to worry people unnecessarily, but we urge them to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. It is important not to be deterred from seeking medical help if you or your child is very ill,” Mr Head added.

More information

This article was published on Wed 22 July 2009

Image © Vladislav Gansovsky -

Related Stories

Use this story

Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page