Nicola Wainwright on the dangers of TB Meningitis and the symptoms to look for to ensure it is treated promptly.

Peter (not his real name) was about 6 months old when he first became ill.

Over a number of weeks he had a raised temperature and suffered vomiting and diarrhoea.

At the beginning of June the vomiting got worse and Peter became more lethargic and quiet. He was floppy and weak; no longer able to hold his head up or sit without support.

He was miserable and not sleeping. He had a high temperature on a number of occasions, which his Mum had trouble bringing down even with Calpol.

By 17 June Peter’s Mum was having difficulty getting fluids into him and Peter was losing weight. She reported that his cry was different and that he did not want to be picked up.

Over the following days he stopped going to the toilet. Peter’s Mum repeatedly took Peter to the GP, eventually taking Peter to hospital twice over a period of weeks before it was accepted there may be something seriously wrong with him.

Finally, on 24 June, when he looked blotchy and grey, Peter was admitted to hospital. Shortly after admission he began to vomit violently and groan. He was not responsive.

The following day he was found to have reduced movement and power to his left arm and leg and he was referred for a MRI scan. This revealed damage to Peter’s brain and further tests revealed that he was suffering from TB meningitis.

Peter has been left with permanent brain damage which has caused learning difficulties, speech and communication delay and attention and behavioural problems.

TB meningitis is caused by the bacterium, mycobacterium tuberculosis. Infection begins elsewhere in the body, usually the lungs, but in about 2% of cases the bacteria can spread to the brain and cause TB meningitis.

At least 20% of those who develop TB meningitis will suffer long-term after-effects, such as brain damage, epilepsy, paralysis and hearing loss. Tragically, some sufferers do not survive.

Unlike other types of meningitis that develop quickly TB meningitis usually develops slowly with vague symptoms which are easily mistaken for other illnesses.

These can go on for weeks before more specific symptoms develop, such as neurological signs, which lead to a diagnosis of meningitis.

As so often with meningitis by the time there are clear signs irreversible damage may already have occurred. For that reason it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis.

The charity, Meningitis Now, publish signs and symptoms checkers which could literally save lives so please have a look at their website here.