Early meningitis diagnosis key to preventing child deaths, says NICE

Correctly spotting meningitis symptoms early is key to preventing deaths in children, NICE says.

The advice forms part of guidance for the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia.

The recommendations, issued by NICE on Wednesday, will help to save lives by providing key information about how to recognise symptoms and signs of the conditions and appropriate clinical care, the institute said.

The guideline emphasises the importance of GPs being aware of clinical features that can be used to help identify children and young people presenting with possible bacterial meningitis.

Early identification is important as prompt referral to emergency departments is essential to initiate antibiotic treatment and prevent death, said NICE.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, director of the NICE Centre for Clinical Practice, said: ‘Fortunately, bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia are very rare. But because of the speed with which they can strike, often with little warning that anything serious is amiss, and their life-threatening potential, they are also perhaps the diseases most feared by parents with young children.’

He added: ‘This guideline addresses the challenges faced by healthcare professionals called upon to identify children and young people who might rapidly progress from early symptoms to a life-threatening state.

‘It will also empower parents of children and young people so that they can work in partnership with healthcare professionals to ensure their child receives the best possible treatment.’

There are over 1,000 cases of bacterial meningitis and 1,700 cases of meningococcal disease each year in England and Wales.

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