Mike Leidig
Phone: ++43-1-81140-319
Thu, 23.01.2003
pte20030123047 Health/Medicine
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Campaign to stop Meningitis in Austria
Death of a three-year-old boy prompted Green Cross to act

Salzburg (pte047/23.01.2003/11:14) - The death of a three-year-old boy in Austria from meningitis has prompted the Austrian Green Cross to start a campaign to inform parents about the symptoms of the disease, which can kill within hours. One hundred people catch meningitis in Austria each year and fifty of these are children and babies.

The risk of catching meningitis is especially high during the wintertime which was why the campaign was especially important to stage now, Professor Ernst Huber from the University of Salzburg told journalists. He is heading the campaign for more awareness of the disease.

Professor Huber said that the risk of catching meningitis was higher at this time of year because meningococcal bacteria can be transmitted to others in infected drops in the same way as coughs and colds. "Meningitis can cause the death of a child within hours. That is why it is so important to know the symptoms and act quickly," he added. He said that the new conjugate vaccines, which also give long-term protection to all age groups targeted for vaccination, can be given to children under two years.

However, Professor Huber warned that there was still no vaccine for the group B meningococcal disease, making it important that people know as much about it as possible. "Being able to recognise the symptoms is vital in these cases," he said. "That is the only way to make sure that patients get the right treatment on time."

The first symptoms of meningitis are similar to those of a cold or the flu. As many as 70 per cent of sick children get red spots like pin-pricks on their skin, which do not disappear when pressure is put on them, unlike spots in the case of measles or scarlet fever. "At any sign of these symptoms, the patient should be taken to a hospital or paediatrician immediately, because the outcome depends on a rapid diagnosis," he said.

About ten per cent of the population have the meningococcal bacteria without developing meningitis. Nevertheless, they can still pass the disease on to others, he warned. He added that the meningococcal bacteria cause an inflammation of the brain linings as well as the spinal cord and that the brain, backbone, marrow and hearing can all be damaged and amputations can follow as an after effect of the disease.

As well as reminding doctors and medical personal in Austria of the risks directly through e-mails and leaflets, the Initiative Meningokokken campaign will include a soon to be launched web site and an information platform where experts can share the latest news and developments.

Submitter: pressetext.austria
Contact: Mike Leidig
Phone: ++43-1-81140-319