Festive revellers are being urged to be vigilant this Christmas for the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia, as the winter months see more cases of them being reported.
The Meningitis Trust, currently celebrating its 21st anniversary, hopes to reduce deaths from meningitis - an infectious disease that can kill within hours and leave sufferers with severe after-effects - by raising awareness of the symptoms through a free life-saving card that displays the signs and symptoms.
Transmission is passed by close prolonged contact, coughing, sneezing or intimate kissing. Nearly 60% of the most serious bacterial types occur between now and March and although the disease affects all ages, more than half of those cases will be in children under five years old.
Bridie Taylor, services and education director at the Trust, said: " Fighting common infections like colds and flu weakens our immune system, leaving us all the more vulnerable to other infections such as meningitis.
"People are also at increased risk in winter as we tend to spend more time indoors and in closer proximity to others, which means germs may spread more easily.
"Worryingly, the symptoms can easily appear like other more common conditions such as flu, so we are asking people to err on the side of caution and learn the signs and symptoms of meningitis."
The symptoms of meningitis can include: fever with cold hands and feet, headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, drowsiness, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion and in some cases a rash which doesn't disappear under pressure.
A million cards are issued each year and available free from the Meningitis Trust's 24-hour freephone, nurse-led help line on 0800 028 18 28.