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Meningitis body calls on Government to change its criteria for assessing the value of vaccination.

IN AN open letter to Health Wales readers, Chris Head, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF), writes: "I am appealing to your readers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia during January and ask parents to ensure their children are fully up-to-date with their vaccinations.

"The risk of meningitis and septicaemia heightens around this time of year when people's immune systems are weakened from fighting common illnesses like colds and flu, making them more vulnerable to bacterial meningitis, the most deadly and common form of the diseases.

"Bacterial meningitis affects around 3,400 people across the UK each year. It is easily misdiagnosed, can kill within 24 hours of onset and may cause serious, life-long disabilities.

"As many as one in 10 of those affected will die and a quarter of survivors will be left with after-effects some as serious as brain damage, amputations, blindness and hearing loss.

"Babies in the first year of life are most vulnerable, with it killing more UK children under the age of five than any other infectious disease.

"Although there are three types of meningitis and septicaemia (Hib, Pneumococcal and MenC) currently covered by the national childhood immunisation schedule, many parents are not aware their children are not protected against all strains of the diseases.

"There is currently no vaccine for meningococcal group B disease (MenB), which is responsible for the majority of cases - around five cases of MenB a day in the UK.

"The MRF campaign, Counting the Cost of Meningitis, has highlighted the shocking lifelong financial costs of surviving meningitis and septicaemia.

"We believe that prevention is more cost effective than treatment; and are calling on the Government to pursue the widest and earliest implementation of vaccines to prevent the diseases.

"MRF launched on online petition in May calling for a MenB vaccine to be included in the immunisation schedule as soon as one that is safe and effective is available and for the Government to change its criteria for assessing the value of vaccination.

"Vaccination provides peace of mind across the country and so far over 13,500 people agree with us and have signed our online petition at www.meningitis.org/sign.

"We want as many names as possible on our petition when we present it to 10 Downing Street in the spring to prove people across the UK want to put an end to these diseases."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 9, 2012
Words:404
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