Meningitis B vaccination and symptom-spotting advice for Northamptonshire parents

Dr Joanne WattDr Joanne Watt
Dr Joanne Watt
Concerned parents in Northamptonshire worried about meningitis B have been offered reassurance by a leading Corby GP.

A petition calling for vaccinations against the deadly illness for all children reached 600,000 this week after pictures were shared online of two-year-old Faye Burdett, who died on Valentine’s day after catching the infection.

Currently only children born after July 1, 2015, are routinely immunised.

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But the petition calls for all youngsters up the age of 11 to be given the jabs.

Faye Burdett, who died after contracting meningitis this monthFaye Burdett, who died after contracting meningitis this month
Faye Burdett, who died after contracting meningitis this month

A rush to privately vaccinate youngsters by concerned parents has led to stocks of the vaccine – called Bexsero – running dry.

There are currently no clinics in the county offering private vaccinations.

Boots said it had run out of supplies and CityDoc, the largest supplier of the vaccine outside of the NHS, said although existing patients would be given their boosters, there were not enough supplies to cater for new patients.

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Dr Joanne Watt, a GP at Great Oakley Surgery and clinical chairman of the board of governors at Corby Clinical Commissioning Group, said her surgery had had multiple calls about the vaccine.

Faye Burdett, who died after contracting meningitis this monthFaye Burdett, who died after contracting meningitis this month
Faye Burdett, who died after contracting meningitis this month

She said: “It’s vitally important that those children who are already part of the existing programme have their meningitis B vaccinations at eight weeks, 16 weeks and one year.

“There is also a meninigitis C vaccine at 12 weeks. Those children will be protected.

“There’s a national shortage at the moment so we’re waiting for the vaccine to become available before more decisions can be made.

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“If you do have contact with somebody who has a diagnosed case of meningitis you should see your GP and you will be offered appropriate guidance.

“But at this point we are unable to recommend as to who else could be given the vaccine.

“We’ve had multiple phonecalls and we’re absolutely sympathetic to those parents.

“It’s really important they’re aware of the signs of meningitis.

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“If they do suspect their child has meningitis they should seek immediate urgent treatment.”

The petition to roll out the vaccination is the lartgest ever petitition on the government’s website and its proliferation means it will be the subject of a Parliamentary debate.

How to spot the symptoms of meningitis:

Bacterial meningitis can lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can be fatal.

Bacterial meningitis is more serious than viral meningitis. The symptoms usually begin suddenly and get worse rapidly.

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If you suspect bacterial meningitis, dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Babies and young children under five years of age are most at risk of developing bacterial meningitis.

A baby or young child with meningitis may:

- have a high fever, with cold hands and feet

- vomit and refuse to feed

- feel agitated and not want to be picked up

- become drowsy, floppy and unresponsive

- grunt or breathe rapidly

- have an unusual high-pitched or moaning cry

- have pale, blotchy skin, and a red rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it (see below)

- have a tense, bulging soft spot on their head (fontanelle)

- have a stiff neck and dislike bright lights

- have convulsions or seizures

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The above symptoms can appear in any order, and some may not appear at all.

The rash can be harder to see on dark skin, in which case check for spots on paler areas like the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, on the tummy, inside the eyelids and on the roof of the mouth.

However, don’t wait for a rash to develop. If your child is unwell and getting worse, seek medical help immediately.

In older children, teenagers and adults, the symptoms of meningitis can include:

- a fever, with cold hands and feet

- vomiting

- drowsiness and difficulty waking up

- confusion and irritability

- severe muscle pain

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- pale, blotchy skin, and a distinctive rash (although not everyone will have this)

- a severe headache

- stiff neck

- sensitivity to light (photophobia)

- convulsion or seizures

Again, these symptoms can appear in any order, and not everyone will get all of them.

Don’t wait for a rash to develop. If someone is unwell and has symptoms of meningitis, seek medical help immediately.

If you press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin and the rash doesn’t fade, it’s a sign of meningococcal septicaemia.

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A person with septicaemia may have a rash of tiny “pin pricks” that later develops into purple bruising.

A fever with a rash that doesn’t fade under pressure is a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate medical help.