Latest warning of dangers of meningitis can best be understood with dying child in parent’s arms

Video Explaining how an older teenager died from this meningitis curse disease

The largest UK parliamentary petition in history urges a meningitis B vaccination program be extended to children of all ages, following a string of child deaths.

Moments after this photo was taken, Mason Timmins died in his parents’ arms. The seven-year-old succumbed to meningitis just over 24 hours after showing the first signs of illness.

Photographs of the formerly fit and healthy boy from Walsall, England, are the latest in a harrowing series of images intended to educate the public of the dangers of meningococcal disease.

“He was always smiling and always had something to say,” his mother, Claire Timmins, 37, told British media after making the photo public.

British boy Mason Timmins, 7, died from meningitis minutes after this photos was taken in December 2013-image

British boy Mason Timmins, 7, died from meningitis minutes after this photos was taken in December 2013. This image was released by his mother Claire Timmins to try to raise awareness of the infection. Photo: Ferrari Press Agency

“One Monday morning, I heard him coughing and then he started to be sick. I thought it was just a sickness bug as to be honest I had seen him a lot worse and it was nothing out of the ordinary,” she recalled of the day in December 2013 that her elder child suddenly grew ill.

“But by 3.30pm he started to get a temperature. I gave him some Calpol but it didn’t go down.”

After calling her husband, Mark Timmins, 49, a welder, the couple took their son to the doctor, where he “got floppy”.
Mason Timmins had been a happy, healthy boy until falling ill in December 2013. He died a day later.

Mason Timmins had been a happy, healthy boy until falling ill in December 2013. He died a day later. Photo: Ferrari Press Agency

“The doctor said straight away he thought it was meningitis and gave him some injections.

“Mason then lost consciousness and he never regained it. He felt ill at 6.30am and by midnight he was brain dead.”

His life support was switched off the next day.

“Hopefully [the photo] will shock people into finding out more about meningitis. We want people to know just how quickly it can happen,” she told the Daily Mirror.

At the time of his death, Claire said that she had survived meningitis as a child and so knew of its warning signs.

But Mason did not have the red rash commonly associated with the meningococcal infection.

“[Mason] had been vaccinated against meningitis but not this particular type, which is a rare type,” she said.

Mason Timmins meningitis death image

Mason Timmins had been a happy, healthy boy until falling ill in December 2013. He died a day later. Photo: Ferrari Press Agency

There have been eight cases and two deaths in NSW this year from meningitis caused by invasive meningococcal disease, according to NSW Health. Last year, there were 44 cases.

One in 10 cases of bacterial meningitis and related septicaemia prove fatal.

Of those who survive in Australia, one in 30 has severe skin scarring or loss of limbs, and one in 30 has severe brain damage.

Australian babies are often vaccinated against meningococcal C at 12 months while a privately available meningococcal B vaccine is yet to be rolled out as part of the national vaccination schedule.

While vaccines are effective, they do not protect against all 13 strains of the disease, Vicky Sheppeard, director of Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, said.

“The infection is spread by secretions from the nose and throat of a person who is carrying it and close and prolonged contact is needed to pass it on. It does not appear to be spread through saliva or by sharing drinks, food or cigarettes,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“The number of cases of this rare disease has been falling over the past 10 years due in part to the success of the meningococcal C vaccination program.

“However, several strains of meningococcal bacteria cause disease in Australia. This means that young people who have had the meningococcal C vaccine should still be on the lookout for symptoms.”

The British photo is the latest in a series of harrowing images released by parents of children either killed or made gravely sick by the infection.

Former England rugby captain Matt Dawson has spoken out about the two weeks “of hell” he and his family endured after his toddler contracted meningitis.

Tweeting “upsetting” photos of his son Sami, the sportsman and commentator urged the public to seek vaccinations against the infection, adding the hashtag #VaccinateNOW.

In particular, an image of Faye Burdett from Kent, her body severely marked by a deep red meningococcal rash, saw thousands flock to sign a petition lodged with the British government to “Give the Meningitis B vaccine to ALL children, not just newborn babies.”

The petition has now been signed more than 660,000 times, making it the most signed online petition in British parliamentary history. With more than 100,000 signatures, politicians will now consider the topic for debate.

Meningitis warning signs, NSW Health:

Meningococcal disease is rare but people infected with it can become extremely unwell within hours of the first symptoms appearing and the disease can be fatal.
A rash does not always appear or it may occur late in the disease. The typical meningococcal rash doesn’t disappear with gentle pressure on the skin.
It is also important to note that not all of the symptoms of meningococcal disease may be present at once.
Symptoms of meningococcal disease are non-specific but may include sudden onset of fever, cold hands and feet, limb/joint pain, nausea and vomiting, headache, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and a pin-prick rash changing to large red-purple blotches. Babies and very young children may also be irritable, have difficulty waking, have rapid or laboured breathing, have diarrhoea, have a high-pitched cry or refuse to eat.
Symptoms early in the illness are common to many mild viral illnesses, so it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose the disease in the early stages.
Sometimes the classic symptoms may follow less specific symptoms including leg pain, cold hands and abnormal skin colour.
Meningococcal disease can sometimes follow on from other respiratory infections.
People who have symptoms of meningococcal disease should see a doctor urgently, especially if there is persistent fever, irritability, drowsiness or lethargy, or a child is not feeding normally.
24-hours expert health advice in NSW 1800 022 222
More information on meningococcal disease or phone your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.


Henry Sapiecha

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