THE father of a York teenager whose meningitis went undiagnosed for a week when she was a baby is urging parents to learn the symptoms of the disease as part of a national campaign.

Kym Houlston, 15, was only eight months old when she began showing flu-like symptoms. However, it was a week before she was rushed to hospital following a number of misdiagnoses.

Dad Steve, 34, of Clifton Moor , said: “We went to various doctors and she wasn’t getting any better, despite being given antibiotics.

“Then we went to see one doctor who examined her head and sent her straight to hospital.”

Mr Houlston said the type of meningitis which struck his daughter was one of the most dangerous and said she was “lucky not to lose a limb”.

He said: “A lumbar puncture confirmed our worst fear. However Kym showed great strength to fight it. Fourteen years on, Kym is strong and was very lucky to only have minor health issues and she loves horse riding and is as active as any teenager.”

Mr Houlston is now lending his support to a campaign by the Meningitis Research Foundation which wants people to be more aware of the symptoms of diseases such as meningitis and septicaemia, which the organisation says affects about 3,600 people in the UK and Ireland annually.

The campaign is called Be Meningitis Wise and it will run during next week’s Meningitis Awareness Week.

The MRF estimates the lifelong costs to the UK Government of medical treatment and ongoing care for a person seriously disabled by the disease to be about £3million.

As a result the charity launched a petition last year calling on the UK Government to pursue the widest and earliest implementation of vaccines to prevent all types of meningitis and septicaemia.

Christopher Head, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “Nearly 18,000 signed our petition and this week it has been presented to 10 Downing Street, so thank you to everyone who supported us.

“However we must remember that vaccines do not prevent all strains of meningitis and septicaemia yet, so it’s vitally important that the people of North Yorkshire are Meningitis Wise and remain aware of the symptoms.”


Be aware of the warning signs

According to the NHS, bacterial meningitis has a number of early warning signs that can occur earlier than the other symptoms.

These are:

• Pain in the muscles, joints or limbs, such as in the legs or hands

• Unusually cold hands and feet, or shivering

• Pale or blotchy skin and blue lips As the condition gets worse it may cause:

• Drowsiness

• Confusion

• Seizures or fits

• Being unable to tolerate bright lights (photophobia) – this is less common in young children

• A stiff neck – also less common in young children

• A rapid breathing rate

• A blotchy red rash that does not fade or change colour when you place a glass against it – the rash is not always present