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Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 03:42 GMT


Meningitis trauma service launched

Two Yorskhire school pupils recently died of meningitis

A counselling service for people severely affected by meningitis has been launched by the National Meningitis Trust.

Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell unveiled the nationwide trauma counselling service which aims to complement the trust's existing services, including a 24-hour nurse-led helpline.

The new service will be partly paid for by a £37,900 grant from the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

Diana was president of the trust until 1996.

Ms Jowell talked about her personal experience with meningitis.

She said: "Just before Christmas a child at my son's school sadly died of meningitis. The school handled the bereavement and its after effects in a magnificent way.

"They sent home a National Meningitis Trust leaflet. Parents were grateful to have that information about what to do."

She added: "I was not alarmed because I was pretty confident that my son did not have contact with the boy that died, but I watched him very carefully."

Bacterial meningitis

Meningitis affects 3,000 people a year in the UK.

It can be caused by viruses or bacteria with the bacterial form being the most dangerous.

The meningococcus bug is the most common and can lead to a related, more serious condition called meningococcal septicaemia.

Meningitis kills one in ten people who contract it, but meningococcal septicaemia is fatal in 20% of cases.

In 15% of cases meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia lead to long-term disability, such as brain damage and deafness.

Philip Kirby, director of operations for the National Meningitis Trust, said: "The national counselling network will provide a much needed service for people who have had an experience of meningitis and require one-to-one intense emotional support.

"We currently provide support by telephone to those people, but face-to-face counselling will reinforce and improve the level of service we can give."

The counselling service will provide personal help for people who have been touched by meningitis.

A team of 23 specially-trained counsellors based across Britain will give face-to-face advice to individuals and their families.

It will back up the trust's existing services, which include a 24-hour telephone helpline and financial support grants.

The trust's helpline can be contacted on 0845 6000 800.

Trisha Kidd, one of the regionally-based counsellors who will provide help, said: "There is an enormous amount of fear when people hear the word meningitis and we will give clear help and advice, in people's homes if necessary.

"We will help families come to terms with something which can affect their lives within a few hours."

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