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Meningitis survivor backs student campaign

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A student who survived meningitis twice is backing a new campaign to highlight symptoms of the deadly disease.

David Coppin, 23, hit the headlines in 2010 after beating the disease twice in just five months while at university.

He is now urging students to “look out for each other” as part of a national adolescent awareness campaign run by the charity Meningitis UK/Meningitis Trust.

Cases of meningitis peak dramatically in the winter months and students are at risk due to living in close quarters, which can help the disease spread more easily.

Up to a quarter of students carry the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis, compared with one in 10 of the general population.

Students also often confuse symptoms with a hangover.

David, from Enfield, north London, was studying sports management at Coventry University when he got meningitis but went on to graduate with a 2:1.

On the first occasion, in October 2009, David collapsed following a bout of vomiting during the night.

His mother Lorraine, who was visiting, called an ambulance and he was taken to hospital where staff initially suspected swine flu.

But one doctor spotted a barely visible pin-prick rash on David’s neck and quickly administered antibiotics.

David was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia and spent a week in a coma before making a full recovery.

However, David contracted meningitis again the following March. His flatmates spotted symptoms and insisted he went to hospital.

David said: “I felt very vulnerable - the ordeal has taught me to appreciate life.

“With meningitis, you don’t have full control of your limbs and everything becomes such a struggle. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

“My mum was also affected emotionally and mentally - it had a big impact on us.

“When I first developed symptoms, I thought I just had a bug.

“I am extremely lucky to recover from the disease twice. It was against all odds and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me get well.

“It’s a hard disease to diagnose so I want everyone across the country to learn the symptoms and keep an eye on each other.”

Symptoms of meningitis include a headache, vomiting, fever, cold hands and feet, limb pain, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash that does not fade under pressure.

Symptoms can occur in any order and some may never appear.

As part of the campaign, a survey of more than 2,000 14 to 24-year-olds found more than half were unable to name a single symptom of meningitis.

This is despite 25% knowing they are at risk and 70% being aware the disease can kill.

Sue Davie, chief executive of the charity said: “The adolescent awareness campaign and survey aims to highlight that teenagers and young people are the second most at risk group after babies and youngsters.

“We’ve heard tragic cases where students have gone to sleep off a hangover and been found either dangerously ill or dead in the morning.

“Knowing the signs can save lives because the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the chances of survival and avoiding outcomes such as limb loss or brain damage.”

Around 3,400 people contract bacterial meningitis and septicaemia in the UK each year. One in 10 die and a third are left with permanent disabilities.


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