GSK launches #TackleMeningitis awareness campaign with rugby stars Rory Best and Matt Dawson

New survey shows that Irish parents are misinformed when it comes to diagnosing the disease: nearly 45% incorrectly believe that a rash is the first symptom to appear

According to a new survey conducted by GSK, 44% of Irish parents think a distinctive rash is the first symptom of meningitis, despite the fact it often appears after other symptoms, or not at all.1

To mark World Meningitis Day, GSK has announced the launch of the Tackle Meningitis campaign in partnership with Irish Rugby captain Rory Best and former England Rugby player, Matt Dawson whose son previously contracted the disease. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness of meningitis, which is a rare but potentially fatal disease. The campaign is backed by Irish charities, Meningitis Research Foundation and ACT for Meningitis.

Tackle Meningitis aims to increase understanding of the disease, its symptoms and the fact that there are different strains of meningitis that can affect both children and young people, using the influence of sport to reach as many people as possible.  As part of GSK’s campaign, a survey of 700 Irish parents revealed that awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis remains worryingly low despite 92% of parents surveyed being either concerned or very concerned about the disease. 1

The survey also flagged a number of other important barriers to greater awareness, including a lack of knowledge about the age ranges at risk and how the disease is passed on, with over a third unaware how the disease is contracted. Also nearly half of respondents were unaware how many strains of meningitis there are.1

The campaign will raise awareness of existing information and materials that can be used to help spot suspected cases of meningitis, in hope that parents better understand this disease, how to spot symptoms and how it can be prevented.  It also aims to increase understanding around the solutions to the disease: whilst raising awareness that no single vaccine protects from all strains, there are vaccines available to prevent the meningococcal B and C strains, which cause the majority of the disease in Ireland, both of which are part of the national immunisation programme.2

Matt Dawson has first-hand experience of meningitis after his three-year old son, Sami, contracted meningitis and remained critically ill on a life-support machine for two weeks afterwards. Sami subsequently recovered from the disease and Matt now wants parents and families to receive the knowledge and education that he feels he lacked.

Matt said: 

“I wish I had known more about meningitis and what to look out for. People only think of the glass test, but there are other lesser known symptoms that it’s very important to be aware of. In truth, I was fairly ignorant about how dangerous it can be, but thankfully we turned out to be incredibly lucky. With this disease, even a matter of minutes can make a huge difference to the outcome. I feel passionate about standing behind a campaign which uses the power and influence of sport and its ability to reach people of all ages.”

Ireland Rugby Captain Rory Best, himself a father of two, and friend of Matt, wanted to support him in helping raise awareness of meningitis in Ireland.

Rory said:

“As a parent myself, you always fear meningitis and when I heard what happened to Matt’s son, I realised that I myself was perhaps not as informed as I could be around this disease. It was important to me to stand beside Matt and help him educate people around meningitis”.

Caroline Krieger, Medical Information Officer with the Meningitis Research Foundation, said: 

“Meningitis is a devastating disease that can kill or cause disability in a matter of hours. Amongst those most at risk are babies, children and young people, but anyone can be affected. Knowing the signs, symptoms and steps to take is crucial in order to act fast and improve outcomes. The narrow-time window for diagnosis of meningitis and the absence of effective vaccines for all strains of the disease means that it is essential for parents, carers and health professionals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease. Our hope is that campaigns like Tackle Meningitis will help to ensure that all parents are aware of meningitis and septicaemia and know when to seek medical help.”

Siobhan Carroll, CEO of ACT for Meningitis commented:

“We welcome GSK’s efforts to create greater awareness around meningitis and applaud Matt Dawson’s courage in using his experience of the disease to help save lives. We know how important the awareness message is, having distributed over 200,000 free signs and symptoms cards to date which provided clear and accurate information for more people than ever before. As parents like Matt Dawson have found, the early symptoms of the disease can be overlooked. In some cases, may have devastating consequences. We are particularly excited to see how ‘Tackle Meningitis’ utilises sport to reach those who still don’t know about the disease.”

References

1Gsk, tackle meningitis survey, april 2017

2http://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/vaccinepreventable/bacterialmeningitis/publications/annualreports/meningococcaldiseaseannualreports/

3bacterial meningitis and invasive meningococcal disease, frequently asked questions, http://www.hpsc.ie/A-Z/VaccinePreventable/BacterialMeningitis/Factsheets/

4hse health finder, meningitis, http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/M/Meningitis/ accessed april 2017

5meningitis now.  https://www.meningitisnow.org/meningitis-explained/what-is-meningitis/meningitis-vaccines/april 2017