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GSK survey finds parents know less about meningitis compared to some other childhood diseases

  • New multi-country survey finds 93% of parents couldn’t identify all three of the most common meningitis symptoms.1
  • While 88% considered meningitis to be a serious childhood disease, one in three are not aware that there are meningitis vaccinations available.1
  • Findings released to mark World Meningitis Day 2023.

Results announced today in a multi-country GSK-commissioned and funded survey conducted by Ipsos show that parents are less knowledgeable about meningitis compared to some other childhood infectious diseases. The aim of the survey was to gain an understanding of meningitis awareness and any potential gaps in knowledge, and found that 72% of parents surveyed said they were somewhat knowledgeable or know a great deal about meningitis. This figure was lower than COVID-19 (95%), flu (94%), measles (86%), pneumonia (82%) and whooping cough (74%).

93% of parents surveyed couldn’t identify all three of the most common symptoms of meningitis: fever, headache, and stiff neck.1 One in ten parents do not know a single meningitis symptom.1 While 88% considered meningitis to be a serious childhood illness, only 38% feel their child is at risk of catching the disease.1 The survey findings have been released to mark World Meningitis Day, 5 October - a day that aims to raise global awareness and understanding of meningitis, its signs and symptoms - while emphasising the importance of implementing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Road Map to defeat meningitis by 2030.2

The survey of over 4,000 parents was conducted across the US, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, UK, and Italy. Of those surveyed, less than half (49%) of parents knew meningitis can lead to death, 28% said they had either never heard of meningitis or know nothing about the condition.1

Further data from the survey showed:

  • 1 in 10 (11%) are not aware that meningitis is a serious illness.1
  • Less than half of parents know meningitis can lead to death, and even fewer are aware of the risk of seizures, problems with co-ordination, vision and respiratory problems.1
  • 17% of parents didn’t know any of the consequences of meningitis.1
  • 53% of parents don’t know which strains of meningitis there is a vaccine available for.1
  • 88% of parents say HCPs are their key source of advice regarding vaccination for their child(ren).1

Every year, approximately 2.5 million people are diagnosed with meningitis globally3 -1.2 million cases of which are invasive meningococcal disease (IMD).4 Caused by the bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis, IMD refers to a range of invasive diseases, including septicaemia and meningitis,5 which can cause serious complications if not diagnosed early.6 Up to one in six people who get bacterial meningitis die,6 resulting in an estimated 135,000 worldwide deaths annually.4

Meningitis can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms are often similar to those of other infectious diseases.7 Common symptoms of meningitis are fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion or altered mental status, nausea and vomiting.8 At least one in five IMD survivors may have severe long-term effects8 such as skin scars, limb amputation (s), hearing, sight and memory loss and seizures.8

Piyali Mukherjee, Vice President and Head of Global Medical Affairs, Vaccines, GSK, said: “This new data shows that meningitis awareness amongst parents is still too low, despite the significant public health challenges it poses. More education is needed on its signs, symptoms, and consequences to help protect children and adolescents from the life-changing consequences of meningitis. At GSK, we work with healthcare professionals and community partners to find ways and implement actions to reduce its impact, supporting the WHO’s 2030 vision to ultimately defeat this devastating disease.”

Brian Davies, Head of Health Insights and Policy, Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “Meningitis may be fatal within 24 hours, so it is critical that everyone is aware of the disease and knows the signs and symptoms to watch for and can act fast. The survey builds on our existing research to show that not enough parents know the signs and symptoms of meningitis, and that more must continue to be done to support people, so they know when to get medical help and more lives can be saved. We are working with healthcare professionals and other partners in many countries to change that, whilst also encouraging parents to always trust their instincts and get medical help as soon as possible, if they suspect meningitis.”

About World Meningitis Day 5th October 2023

Given the global burden, severity and speed with which meningitis can develop, a global effort is required to improve awareness of and education about the disease. The goal of the annual World Meningitis Day led by the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) and the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) is to raise global awareness and understanding of meningitis, its signs and symptoms, and prevention, while emphasising the importance of implementing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Road Map to defeat meningitis by 2030.

GSK is proud to support World Meningitis Day, alongside global and local patient advocacy groups, the meningitis community, and other pharmaceutical and life sciences companies across the world.

About the survey

Ipsos is one of the largest market research companies in the world. On behalf of GSK, Ipsos conducted an online survey among 4001 adults aged 18 years + who are the parents or legal guardian of at least 1 child who is aged between 0-18 years old. Parents needed to be the sole or joint decision maker for vaccinations for their youngest child. Parents were from USA (n=1000), Brazil (n=500), Germany (n=501), France (n=500), Spain (n=500), UK (n=499) and Italy (n=501). Fieldwork took place between June and August 2023. The total level data are weighted based on country average approach with an equal weighting across the countries included.

About Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD)

Anyone can potentially contract IMD, but it's more common in babies, young children, adolescents and young adults. Of these groups, babies and young children are at the greatest risk.10,11

Five Neisseria meningitidis serogroups (A, B, C, W, and Y) account for nearly all IMD cases in most of the world.8 IMD is uncommon, but can be potentially devastating. If not treated early, IMD may rapidly result in death within 24 hours of symptom onset and may leave survivors with severe complications.10 Vaccines are available to help protect people against serogroups A, B, C ,W and Y, the five most common serogroups of IMD.8

About GSK

GSK is a global biopharmaceutical company with a purpose to unite science, technology, and talent to get ahead of disease together. Find out more at

Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking statements

GSK cautions investors that any forward-looking statements or projections made by GSK, including those made in this announcement, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 3.D 'Risk factors” in the company's Annual Report on Form 20-F for 2022, and Q1 Results for 2023 and any impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.