Sport

Peacock using road to Paris to educate public on meningitis

Two-time Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock is using his road to Paris 2024 to educate the public on the importance of spotting meningitis symptoms early.

The 31-year-old contracted the rare but potentially fatal disease at five years old and, due to blood pressure complications, had his right leg amputated below the knee.

A successful sprinting career would eventually follow but Peacock now wants to raise awareness so that less and less people suffer from the devastating effects of meningitis.

Peacock has partnered with former England rugby great Matt Dawson to support GSK’s Tackle Meningitis initiative and wants to shed light on the emotional as well as physical damage the disease can have.

He said: “I was ill through the night, vomiting, my mother thought it was just general sickness which went on until the early hours of the morning.

“I was covered in a rash so at that moment she knew exactly what it was because she was familiar with the rash symptom.

“I was in A&E in 10 minutes luckily, put into a coma and then let my body do some work, it managed to save me but unfortunately, there was some blood pressure issues and my foot needed to be amputated.

“It is difficult to spot which doesn’t make it any easier, but information is power so if people can know all of the symptoms then that’s better than not.

“If you want to look at the mental damage that can go around it, I’m sure my mother still probably carries that with her today, I’m sure a lot of parents do and are in similar situations.”

It is estimated up to one person in every two or three who survives bacterial meningitis is left with one or more permanent problems.

There are a number of different strains of meningococcal disease, and whilst young children are most at risk, meningitis can affect any age group.

Embarking on his fourth Paralympic Games this summer, Peacock is using his platform to reach as many people as possible and believes ‘knowledge is power’ when it comes to educating the nation, making sure people know what to look out for and to seek advice from a healthcare professional.

He said: “I’m happy if my road to Paris can help pull this along a little bit more and get this in front of one or two more eyes.

“It’s a reminder again that it can affect anyone whether you’re a sports fan or not, it’s something that can get anyone at any time.

“The more knowledge you have, the quicker you can make decisions, it can be hard to spot but if you do have cold hands and feet or a fever.

“This is a time sensitive infection, the quicker you can deal with it, the less likely it is to spread.

“It’s an incredibly rare illness and it’s just a lack of awareness.

“It’s not something that a lot of people have to deal with so some people can be ill-informed, and they will be okay with that but not everyone and it can affect anyone at any time and any place.”

Tackle Meningitis is a campaign by GSK supported by Matt Dawson and Jonnie Peacock. For more information visit TackleMeningitis.org. Tackle Meningitis is supported by Life for a Cure, Meningitis Now, The Meningitis Research Foundation, UKHSA and NHS England, who have shared their insights and expertise from patient and public health perspectives.

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