Teenager dies from meningitis despite not having rash
Heartbroken parents have revealed how their teenage son died from meningitis – despite not having the tell-tale purple rash.
Lewis Hilton, 19, from Greetland, near Huddersfield, was killed by meningitis W – a deadly strain that he wasn’t protected against.
It claimed his life within 72 hours of his first flu-like symptoms, which prompted his concerned father, Morley, to send him home from work.
But by the time the rugby player arrived in A&E the next day, following a phone call to NHS 111, he was unable to walk by himself or talk.
Doctors did ‘everything they could’ to try and save his life, but it overwhelmed his body. He passed away on January 28 at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
Mr Hilton, who started playing rugby at the age of six, had been vaccinated against four other strains of meningitis in September.
Lewis Hilton, 19, from Greetland, near Huddersfield, was killed by meningitis W – a deadly strain that he wasn’t protected against
Recalling her phone call to NHS 111, his mother Tracy told the Halifax Courier: ‘I knew they were talking me through meningitis symptoms.
‘There was no rash, he was OK with light. The only thing on the list was he couldn’t put his chin to his chest.
‘Then we took him straight to A&E and by the time we got there his headache was really bad. His leg was going numb and we had to help him walk in.
‘We saw a nurse, by which time his other leg and his arms were going numb, and he couldn’t hold himself up.’
Mrs Hilton, who praised hospital staff, continued: ‘He was taken into a treatment area and by the time he was on the bed he couldn’t really speak.
‘He was treated for viral and bacterial meningitis as they couldn’t test which it might be at that point.
It claimed his life within 72 hours of his first flu-like symptoms, which prompted his concerned father, Morley, to send him home from work
Doctors did ‘everything they could’ to try and save the life of Mr Hilton – who was a keen rugby player, but it overwhelmed his body. He passed away on January 28
‘He was then transferred to intensive care, Huddersfield. By 11 o’clock on Friday night he couldn’t breathe on his own, so was on a ventilator.’
She added: ‘If we’d taken him to A&E any earlier they’d have said it was flu.
‘So many people have had flu recently and you’d have thought that’s what it was, until he got the headache in the morning, and by then it was too late.’
His parents, who are ‘absolutely overwhelmed’ by the response to their son’s death, are now trying to raise awareness of meningitis.
They revealed Mr Hilton was given a jab against the ‘devastating’ bug in September, believed to protect against A,C,D and E, but it didn’t cover the strain he had.
Vaccinations against meningitis B have been available for babies up to a year old on the NHS since 2015 but not for older children.
Campaigners have repeatedly called for the Government to ensure all children are protected against the killer strain.
More than 800,000 people signed a landmark petition created in February 2016 after the killer bug claimed the life of two-year-old Faye Burdett.
The Government reiterated in the same year that making the vaccine available to all children was ‘not cost effective’.
Mr Hilton, who started playing rugby at the age of six, had been vaccinated against four other strains of meningitis in September (pictured: his team, Old Rishworthians, taking part in a one minute clap in his memory)
His parents, who are ‘absolutely overwhelmed’ by the response to their son’s death, are now trying to raise awareness of meningitis (Mr Hilton is pictured at the front)
WHAT IS MENINGITIS?
Meningitis is caused by bacteria and results in an infection in the spinal cord and brain lining.
It can also lead to blood infections.
The disease commonly occurs among people who seem perfectly healthy and its onset is without warning.
You can catch the disease by being in close contact with someone who has it – such as kissing them or absorbing their germs when they cough.
It is easily spread among people living in tight quarters.
For this reason, it is commonly perceived as a disease that mainly affects students living on college campuses.
Even when treated, the disease kills 10 to 15 of every 100 infected people.
And 10 to 20 of every 100 survivors will be disabled after contracting the disease.
The vaccine is privately available in Superdrug, Boots and in private clinics from £210 for a two-dose course.
One in 10 of the 3,200 cases of the bacterial meningitis in the UK per year are fatal, with one in three left with permanent disabilities.
Public Health England data in 2016 showed since the jab was introduced it has been behind a 42 per cent drop in cases of Men B.
Meningitis B most often strikes children under the age of one, and symptoms can include cold hands, confusion and headaches.
A rash is deemed the most common sign of the infection that strikes the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.
The bacterial infection isn’t always fatal – but it can leave victims with long-lasting problems, such as amputation, deafness and learning difficulties.
It follows the emergence of Meningitis W – a deadly strain of the infection that is on the rise that has prompted concerns.
PHE urged students to get themselves vaccinated against the strain before starting university in September.
Older teenagers and students are encouraged to get the Men ACWY vaccine, added to the national immunisation programme in 2015.
This group is thought to be at a higher risk of infection because they mix closely with lots of new people – some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.