- Global Pharma News & Resources

World Meningitis Day 2021

Every year, on the 24th April, Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMo) joins people worldwide to raise awareness of meningitis, a disease that can tragically take a life in under 24 hours. This year, we’re asking you to join us in our biggest campaign yet.

The WHO has approved a Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030, a landmark achievement that recognises the struggles of millions of people affected by meningitis. Despite this landmark achievement, serious challenges remain.

When someone has meningitis, it is important to act fast. Unfortunately, not many people know about the disease and the symptoms can be easily confused with other diseases like the flu, malaria and even COVID-19. A delay in diagnosis and treatments claims lives and leaves many others with serious, life-long after-effects.

Meningitis and septicaemia are medical emergencies that can be deadly and have serious, long-lasting impacts

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, or non-infectious means such as cancer and lupus. Approximately 1 in 10 people with bacterial meningitis die, with 1 in 5 survivors being left with serious lifelong after-effects such as brain damage, hearing loss, organ damage, and limb loss.

Meningitis is emotionally devastating, not just for the person who contracted it, but for their loved ones as well. When someone loses a loved one to meningitis, their life is changed forever. Each person’s grief process is different but no one should have to cope alone – support is important for everyone affected. Depression and anxiety, common psychological impacts of meningitis, cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity. The value of emotional support networks cannot be underestimated.

Globally, there are more than 2.5 million estimated new cases of meningitis per year, leading to more than 230,000 deaths, with meningitis and neonatal sepsis being the 2nd leading infectious cause of death in children under 5. Meningitis leads to more than 500,000 people being left with a lifelong disability every year.

Signs and Symptoms

For children/adults:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsy
  • Confusion
  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Avoiding bright light
  • Behavioural changes

For babies:

  • Fever
  • Unusual, high-pitched cry
  • Vomiting
  • Difficult to wake
  • Blank staring
  • Rash
  • Dislike of being handled
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale or blotchy skin
  • Bulging soft spot on head
  • Neck retraction


The impact of COVID-19 has led to some people missing their immunisations and the number of meningitis cases are expected to rise when people start to gather again. Most meningitis is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, from coughing, sneezing and close contact such as kissing.

Meningitis can affect anyone at any age and can kill in under 24 hours. You should seek medical attention immediately if you have the symptoms. It is also largely vaccine preventable, so ensure you are up-to-date with your immunisations. Multiple vaccines are required for protection against different types of meningitis. Since the UK’s introduction of the MenB vaccine in 2015, the number of cases has reduced by 75%.

We can all help #DefeatMeningitis

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed a Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030. You can support this by:

  • Encouraging your local politicians to commit to this vision.
  • Tell people about the signs and symptoms – early recognition saves lives.
  • Get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you.
  • Support local disability organisations and help to build accessible and inclusive societies.

To find out more about how you can get involved this World Meningitis Day, visit the CoMO website.