What is meningitis and how is it caused as guitarist Jeff Beck dies aged 78
Grammy-winning guitarist Jeff Beck died aged 78 after “suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis”, his family announced on Wednesday.
A statement was posted to Twitter and Instagram and read: “On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing.
“After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”
Tributes flood in for Jeff Beck as he dies aged 78
Ozzy Osbourne, Sir Brian May and Jimmy Page are among the musical heavyweights that have paid tribute to the guitarist.
Osbourne was among the first to pay tribute to Beck, writing that it had been “such an honour” to know and play with him on his most recent album.
The passing of a musical legend 🎸
We are very sorry to hear of the passing of legendary guitarist Jeff Beck from bacterial meningitis. We extend our deepest condolences to his family. Jeff’s passing serves as reminder that meningitis can affect anyone👉 https://t.co/0VqMZgAcvR pic.twitter.com/PqraMiK6Tk
— Meningitis Now (@MeningitisNow) January 12, 2023
Dr Tom Nutt, the chief executive of charity Meningitis Now, said the shock news of Beck’s passing is a reminder about the “devastating” disease and its ability to affect any age group.
“We would encourage everyone to ensure that they are aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and to have the confidence to act fast and seek medical help should they believe they may be becoming ill,” he said.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is the swelling of the meninges, the lining around the brain and spinal cord, and is caused by germs.
It is a serious, life-threatening illness and can kill in hours, but there are different causes and levels of severity.
Beck contracted bacterial meningitis which is usually the most serious form, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).
Viral meningitis is another form of the disease but it is “almost never life-threatening” while the third kind, fungal meningitis, is serious but very rare in the UK and Ireland. It tends to only affect people with weakened immune systems.
Meningitis can cause or occur at the same time as septicaemia which is a kind of blood poisoning caused by infection.
What are the symptoms of meningitis?
Meningitis Now says there are many common signs and symptoms to look out for in adults:
Cold hands and feet
Confusion and irritability
Severe muscle pain
Pale and blotchy skin
Spots and rashes
Dislike of bright lights
The charity says early symptoms can include:
Fever with cold hands and feet
A baby or child under 5 years old, an age group that is particularly vulnerable to the disease, might refuse food, dislike being handled, display unusual cries and moans, and have a tense, bulging soft spot.
Another sign of meningitis and septicaemia can be a rash that doesn’t fade under pressure.
Meningitis Now suggests using a “glass test” to see if it is a meningitis rash.
To do the glass test, you’ll need to press the side of a clear glass firmly against the skin.
The spots or rash may fade at first but you’ll need to keep checking.
Did you know?🤔 There are many different causes of meningitis, but the two most common are viruses and bacteria.
If you want to learn more about the different types and causes of meningitis, click here 👉 https://t.co/oRKPCmdWu1 pic.twitter.com/92ATFfL6pP
— Meningitis Now (@MeningitisNow) January 9, 2023
A fever with spots or a rash that doesn’t fade under pressure is a medical emergency.
How is meningitis prevented and treated?
Vaccines are available to protect against some of the common bacteria and viruses that cause the disease such as meningococcal and measles, mumps and rubella.
Not all causes of meningitis are vaccine-preventable and the MRF says treatment will depend on what germs have caused the infection.
Meningitis caused by bacteria requires urgent treatment with antibiotics.
Who can be affected by Meningitis?
All age groups can be affected by Meningitis with young children and babies being particularly vulnerable. The risk also increases in older adults.
A study carried out by Meningitis Now revealed that 96% of people aged over 65 don’t consider themselves to be at risk from meningitis and septicaemia, despite the risk of meningitis increasing in older adults.
Dr Nutt said: “Jeff’s passing serves as reminder that meningitis is not just a disease that affects infants and adolescents; it can affect anyone at any age.”