Meningococcal disease, commonly called meningitis, is a sudden, potentially life-threatening illness. Through our Win for Meningitis campaign, we’re helping to raise awareness of this damaging disease.
Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection that can result in the swelling of tissue around the spinal cord and the lining of the brain – the condition we know as meningitis. It can also cause infection of the bloodstream (sepsis) and pneumonia. Together these conditions are known as invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). Early symptoms can be easily mistaken for other illnesses, sometimes resulting in misdiagnosis and delayed treatment. In just 24 hours, meningococcal infection can develop into a serious illness needing hospital care.
Although IMD is considered a rare disease, in 2013 there were 65,700 deaths worldwide – on average one death every eight minutes. While most people survive, even after medical care approximately 1 in 5 survivors suffer life-long disability.
Anyone can develop the disease, but babies under one are most vulnerable because of their under-developed immune systems. Young adults are next most at-risk. Living in close proximity - in dormitories, for example - can make it easier for bacteria to be passed on.
Of the six serogroups (or types) of meningococcal bacteria that are responsible for most cases of IMD, five of these can be prevented by vaccines. Vaccines against four serogroups have been used successfully for some time. After four decades of research, we also now have a vaccine against meningococcal serogroup B disease.
We’re committed to improving healthcare by developing innovative new medicines and vaccines, and making them available to people around the world. Our global awareness campaign, Win for Meningitis, aims to build on that commitment, educating people about the disease and helping to ensure more people have access to vaccination.
Win for Meningitis aims to help parents learn about all types of meningococcal disease and what they can do to help protect their children. One way we are doing this is by teaming up with Paralympian athletes who are committed to sharing their experience as survivors of meningococcal disease.
Jamie Schanbaum and Aaron Phipps are two such inspiring athletes who helped launch our disease awareness campaign. Jamie’s response to her illness when she was 20 years-old was to change her thinking from “why did this happen to me?” to “why does this have to keep happening to anyone at all?”α and this defined her mission. A USA Paralympian cycling gold-medallist, Jamie is an active public speaker, advocate, and GSK spokesperson. Jamie was instrumental in securing ‘The Jamie Schanbaum Act’, ensuring that Texas college students are vaccinated against four of the five groups of meningococcal infection.
Aaron Phipps is a former Great Britain wheelchair rugby player and London 2012 GB Paralympic athlete. He was struck by meningitis group C infection in 1999 as a 15 year-old, just 10 months before the UK introduced a vaccine to help prevent it. Aaron is a survivor and despite losing limbs he decided “...I was going to beat it”.‡ He started racing wheelchairs and by 2009 was a veteran of two London Marathons. The same year, he embarked on a programme to develop his wheelchair rugby skills. At the London 2012 Paralympics, he scored over half of the overall points for GB. Aaron is preparing to be the first person in a wheelchair to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in May 2016.
Win for Meningitis launched on the day Jamie and Aaron visited GSK’s Human Performance Laboratory, taking part in a series of fitness and endurance tests. Personal experiences of meningococcal disease, and the determination to succeed regardless of its effects, is a theme running through the stories of many Paralympians. They are inspiring and powerful advocates for action to help prevent the disease.
Creating a win for disease prevention
From April 2016, Win for Meningitis will see Paralympians from around the world taking part in a photo shoot with renowned photographer Anne Geddes. Anne is an advocate of child health and known for her photographs capturing the beauty and dignity of child meningitis survivors. Developing this theme for Win for Meningitis, Anne will create a new visual story. Her photographs will contrast the inspiring strength of Paralympian survivors of meningitis with the vulnerability of newborn babies, encouraging parents to help protect the new generation against meningococcal disease.
Throughout the campaign, GSK is working with the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO). Members of their global network of advocates for meningococcal disease prevention are contributing to the coordinated worldwide effort to raise awareness on World Meningitis Day on April 24th.
Creating a world free from meningococcal disease is a huge goal and will require the help of many supporters. Our campaign is the bell sounding for the next lap in the race to deliver a ‘win for meningitis’ prevention.
Find out more about the disease, share these pages to help us raise awareness and be part of #winformeningitis.
About meningococcal disease:
- Meningococcal disease is a sudden, potentially life-threatening illness that can lead to death within 24-48 hours of the first symptoms
- It may be transmitted from person-to-person through droplets by sneezing or coughing
- Babies and young adults are particularly susceptible to meningococcal disease; babies in particular are at the greatest risk
- Initial symptoms may vary and can lead to misdiagnosis and delayed treatment
- Within the first 4–8 hours of onset, infants and children may appear drowsy, have a decreased appetite, develop fever, nausea, vomiting, leg pain and become irritable
- 1 out of 5 survivors may suffer lifelong disability
- Six serogroups of meningococcal bacteria (A, B, C, W-135, X and Y) cause most cases of disease around the world
- It is impossible to know who will be affected so vaccination is the most effective way to help prevent meningococcal disease
- Vaccines are available to immunise against five serogroups of meningococcal disease: A, B, C, W-135, and Y
Jamie Schanbaum is sponsored as a spokesperson for GSK.
α Austinite Spotlight reported by Sheridan Butler September 23, 2015
‡ The Telegraph online – reported by Gareth A Davies 7:40PM BST 04 Sep 2012
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