Meningitis Research Foundation, the Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK say that meningitis and septicaemia kill more under-fives than any other infectious disease in this country.
Around 300 people in the UK die from the disease each year and six families a week face the devastation of losing a loved-one.
The charities are all members of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO), which has organised World Meningitis Day on Tuesday, April 24, to increase public awareness of the symptoms, highlight the need for urgent treatment and call for all children to be fully vaccinated.
“World Meningitis Day is a perfect opportunity to come together and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms associated with these diseases so that the people in the UK can protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Chris Head, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation.
Currently, the UK vaccinates children against many forms of meningitis and septicaemia, which have saved thousands of lives.
But there is still no vaccine against the most common strain, meningococcal Group B, resulting in the UK still seeing around 3,400 cases of life-threatening bacterial meningitis and septicaemia every year.
Kate Rowland, chief executive of Meningitis UK, said: “Great advances have been made in the past few decades and World Meningitis Day is an opportunity to remind people of the importance of vaccine uptake and symptom recognition.
“Together we can help raise awareness, share knowledge and fund research in the hope that one day families will be spared the heartache of losing a loved one to these devastating diseases.”
Hundreds of people in this country die from bacterial meningitis each year and those who survive are often left with after-effects including deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, limb loss (where septicaemia is involved), learning difficulties, memory issues and behavioural problems.
Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust, added: “For every individual across the UK who has had meningitis, there are many more who are living with the impact of the disease right now, and for many, their lives have changed forever.
“We hope World Meningitis Day will show them that they are not alone and that meningitis organisations across the world are working together to help save lives and rebuild futures.”