Meningitis effects harming children

 

A third of children who survive meningitis will be left with “devastating” long-term conditions, new research suggests.

One in three youngsters who are treated for the disease will suffer after-effects including mental health problems, epilepsy and learning difficulties, the study found.

One in five children will have anxiety or behavioural disorders, while young survivors are five times more likely to have speech and communication problems, according to research from University College London (UCL).

The disease also impacted on long and short-term memory, with some children left with a borderline low IQ, it said.

Sufferers were five times more likely to have a significant hearing impairment, with 2.4% of survivors having bilateral hearing loss which required a cochlear implant. The risk of amputation was also increased, the study said.

Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust, said: "The hidden, yet devastating after-effects of meningitis can often be dismissed.

"We hope that the new findings will encourage education and health professionals to recognise these, as well as the noticeable physical after-effects of meningitis, and push for children to receive the support they need and deserve.

"In addition, we hope that parents will feel more empowered by these findings. They need to be confident when advising professionals that their child might be suffering from the after-effects of meningitis in order to change perceptions, and ensure meningitis is fully investigated as a possible cause."

Commissioned by the Meningitis Trust, the study looked at the effects of meningococcal group B disease (MenB), the UK's most common type of bacterial meningitis.

The research - entitled The Meningococcal Outcomes Study in Adolescents and In Children (MOSAIC) - involved more than 570 children in England over a three-year period.

The sample included 245 children who suffered meningococcal group B disease three years earlier, when they were aged between one month and 13 years.

Lead researcher Professor Russell Viner, from UCL's Institute of Child Health, said: "MOSAIC is the first comprehensive study of the outcomes of serogroup B meningococcal disease published anywhere in the world. It is also the largest study of the outcomes of meningococcal disease ever published.

"As governments all around the world begin the process of deciding whether to introduce new MenB vaccines, the MOSAIC data will play a central role in informing these decisions."

About 3,400 new cases of bacterial meningitis are diagnosed in the UK each year, with half of them children.

In total, 500,000 people in the UK suffer with the illness, according to the Meningitis Trust.

Children under five, young people aged 15 to 24 and adults aged over 55 are most at risk of the illness, the charity said.

The Meningitis Trust has called for the automatic right for any child who has been treated for the disease to have regular assessments throughout their time in education.

The charity's campaign - Meningitis Changes Futures - was set up to highlight the impact of meningitis and aims to tackle educational difficulties facing those who have undergone treatment.

PA

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