Most over-55s don’t think they’re at risk from deadly meningitis and septicaemia, despite the fact that cases of the disease increase in older adults.
The study, carried out for charity Meningitis Now, also highlights the fact that three-quarters of this group are not confident in recognising its signs and symptoms.
Vaccines that protect against some types of meningitis and septicaemia are given to babies, children and young people, but most over-55s will not get them.
Meningitis Now is using the findings as part of its new national awareness campaign – Adults Get It Too – to inform and educate adults of the risks they face and the actions they can take to look after themselves and their loved ones.
The charity’s chief executive Dr Tom Nutt said: “These findings are a cause for concern. The popular misconception is that meningitis and septicaemia only affects babies and young children.
“Many in this older age group may be more concerned about their children or grandchildren. We need to scotch this myth once and for all. Anyone of any age can get meningitis, with the risk increasing in older adults.”
Case numbers in older age groups are on the rise too, particularly among over-65s, where cases have doubled over the past five years.
The campaign is calling on adults to learn the signs and symptoms of the disease by ordering free cards from its website at www.meningitisnow.org/adults
Early signs of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to ‘flu, tummy bug or a hangover and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps and fever with cold hands and feet.
More specific ones include drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash, which doesn’t fade under pressure.