Bacterial meningitis: rash and symptoms explained, as daughter of Jay Aston from Bucks Fizz battles illness

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Meningitis can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults

The teenage daughter of Bucks Fizz star Jay Aston is currently seriously ill in hospital with bacterial meningitis.

Aston’s 18-year-old daughter, Josie, was put in an induced coma on 22 March after her organs began to fail, but has now been moved to a specialist kidney unit at King’s College Hospital in south London.

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Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

But what are the symptoms of the condition and how does bacterial meningitis differ from viral meningitis?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the meninges and can affect anyone, but is most common in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults. It can be very serious if not treated quickly.

What are the symptoms of meningitis?

Symptoms of meningitis develop suddenly and can include:

  • a high temperature
  • being sick
  • a headache
  • a rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it (but a rash will not always develop)
  • a stiff neck
  • a dislike of bright lights
  • drowsiness or unresponsiveness
  • seizures (fits)

These symptoms can appear in any order and you do not always get all the symptoms.

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How is meningitis spread?

Meningitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is rarer, but more serious than viral meningitis.

Meningitis is usually caught from people who carry these viruses or bacteria in their nose or throat, but are not ill themselves.

It can also be caught from someone with meningitis, but this is less common.

Infections that cause meningitis can be spread through:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • kissing

When should I seek medical help?

You should get medical advice as soon as possible if you’re concerned that you or your child could have meningitis.

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The NHS website says: “Trust your instincts and do not wait until a rash develops.”

Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E immediately if you think you or your child might be seriously ill.

Call NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice if you’re not sure if it’s anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.

Are there vaccinations against meningitis?

Vaccinations offer some protection against certain causes of meningitis.

These include the:

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  • meningitis B vaccine – offered to babies aged 8 weeks, followed by a second dose at 16 weeks and a booster at 1 year
  • 6-in-1 vaccine – offered to babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age
  • pneumococcal vaccine – offered to babies born before 1 January 2020 at 8 and 16 weeks and 1 year of age; babies born on or after 1 January 2020 have 2 doses at 12 weeks and 1 year
  • Hib/MenC vaccine – offered to babies at 1 year of age
  • MMR vaccine – offered to babies at 1 year and a second dose at 3 years and 4 months
  • meningitis ACWY vaccine – offered to teenagers, sixth formers and "fresher" students going to university for the first time

How is meningitis treated?

People with suspected meningitis will usually have tests in hospital to confirm the diagnosis and to check whether the condition is the result of a viral or bacterial infection.

Bacterial meningitis usually needs to be treated in hospital for at least a week, according to the NHS.

Treatments can include:

  • antibiotics given directly into a vein
  • fluids given directly into a vein
  • oxygen through a face mask

Viral meningitis tends to get better on its own within seven to 10 days and can often be treated at home. Getting plenty of rest and taking painkillers and anti-sickness medication can also help to relieve the symptoms.

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