The UK's only meningitis charity has spearheaded a new social media campaign to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of the disease – and when to seek medical advice.
Meningitis NOW launched the #dontHUNTtherash campaign in response to comments made by health secretary Jeremy Hunt last weekend advising patients against going to their GP when a rash appears.
He said that if parents were “worried about a rash your child has, an online alternative - where you look at photographs and say 'my child's rash looks like this one' - may be a quicker was of getting to the bottom of whether this is serious or not.”
But his comments were condemned by doctors and patient groups as potentially fatal advice.
Sue Davie, chief executive officer of Meningitis NOW, said: “To suggest that people look for an online diagnosis for a rash, rather than seek medical help, could have serious consequences for anyone who has contracted meningitis.”
The health secretary made the comments when visiting the family of one-year-old William Mead, who died after a call to NHS's non-emergency 111 telephone hotline failed to correctly diagnose his symptoms as sepsis in December 2014.
Thomas Davis, the charity's social media manager, said: “The response we have received to Jeremy Hunt's comments through our online followers has been overwhelming.
“This campaign highlights that the rash is just one possible symptom of meningitis. It could appear at any time and it can be one of the last signs and symptoms to develop, so it is essential that people seek urgent medical help, not resort to Google.”
The charity funded the UK's meningitis movement and seeks to combat the disease through raising awareness and support for research.