22/09/2009 04:59 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Billie Piper Asks For More Understanding About Meningitis In Babies

A few years ago, my neighbour had an inkling that her newborn baby wasn't well. She was about to set off on holiday, but somehow her mother's instinct told her to go to the hospital instead.

And it's a good thing she did, because it turned out that her baby had meningitis. Thankfully this story has a happy ending, since he made a full recovery and is now a healthy, happy schoolboy.

This week is Meningitis in Babies Awareness Week. Actress Billie Piper, mother of baby Winston, is supporting the campaign. Billie says:

"Meningitis and septicaemia are every parent's worst nightmare. MRF's campaign will raise awareness of these diseases among parents of young babies, which is essential as it can be very difficult to spot meningitis in babies because the symptoms are even less obvious than in older children and adults. Meningitis develops very quickly and can kill in hours, therefore there just is no time for delayed diagnosis."

Apparently babies run a higher risk of meningitis than any other age group. Different strains of meningitis bacteria affect babies more quickly and cause more damage as their immune system, as it has not developed enough to be able to handle the bacteria.

Newborn babies are also more prone to specific forms of neonatal meningitis which is transmitted differently to the baby than more traditional forms. For example, Streptococcus Group B bacteria is the most common cause of severe infection in newborns, particularly in the first week of birth and is transmitted from the mother during the labour.

The Meningitis Research Foundation estimates there are approximately 800 cases of GBS meningitis alone in the UK from which there is a 10 of sufferers. There are no tests to show the presence of any other strains of meningitis, which is why it's even more important to be aware of the symptoms in babies.

To find out more

  • Contact Meningitis Research Foundation - the website includes informations on symptoms
  • They have a FREEfone 24-hour helpline – 080 8800 3344 - which provides support and information for anyone with concerns about meningitis. Trained staff and nurses are on-hand to offer support and information.
  • Text MRF to 82088 to receive symptoms information on your mobile phone. You'll always have it with you and it might just save a life. Costs one standard text message charge plus minimal data download charge.