Dear Madam, - Many of your readers will have seen the recent good news about new vaccines for meningitis for babies and students.

At charity Meningitis Now we welcome this news but we also want to issue a warning as the new school year starts against complacency towards the disease.

These new vaccines do not mean meningitis is beaten and we would urge parents, students and teachers to be vigilant to the signs and symptoms and download our free mobile app or request a symptoms card.

Meningitis is a disease that can kill within hours, so knowledge of the symptoms, vigilance and quick action are vital.

The meningitis risk increases during the colder months as people spend more time indoors, closer to others; meaning germs are spread more easily. Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to the disease.

It can be a difficult disease to spot as many of its early symptoms can be similar to those of flu.

Symptoms can include fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, joint or muscle pain, pale blotchy skin, drowsiness and confusion, and in babies, a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry, rapid breathing and bulging fontanelle.

Adults and children may also have a rash that does not fade under pressure. Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all. Our advice is not to wait for a rash, the symptom most commonly associated with meningitis. This doesn’t always appear and can appear late. If concerned, seek urgent medical attention.

Meningitis Now’s free signs and symptoms phone app and credit card-sized signs and symptoms cards for people to keep in a wallet or purse are available by calling its freephone helpline on 0808 80 10 388, or visiting the website at

The charity will support anyone who has experience of meningitis. For further information on how to access these services call the helpline on the above number.

Yours faithfully Sue Davie, Chief Executive, Meningitis Now, Stroud