Belfast Telegraph

Amputee warns of meningitis signs

A woman who lost both legs after contracting meningitis is warning others to spot the signs of the potentially killer disease.

Double amputee Norma McCarthy wants the public to learn the symptoms of meningitis, which are similar to the flu or a hangover and include fever, vomiting, dislike of bright lights and neck stiffness and a rash.

The 27-year-old, from Kilcornan, Co Limerick, maintains her disability has never held her back, but does not want others to suffer the same way.

"The most important advice I can give to anyone is to take the awareness message seriously," she said.

"Know the symptoms and you could save a life. If someone is not feeling well take them to the hospital because it can be detected.

"I wouldn't like to see this happen to anybody else. It's a terrible ordeal to have to go through, skin grafts, operations, up and down to theatre. But I got through it with great support."

Young adults are twice as likely to carry the bacteria that cause meningitis - which is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord - and septicaemia, the blood poisoning form of the disease.

Up to 300 cases of the conditions are recorded each year, with up to 10% of patients dying. A further 20% of survivors are left with serious after-effects including amputations, deafness, blindness and epilepsy.

Recent figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show a dramatic fall in the uptake of meningitis vaccines.

The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) said people can be vaccinated against many forms of meningitis through the childhood immunisation scheme. But there is no vaccine for Meningococcal Group B disease - which is the biggest killer in Ireland from meningitis.

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