A FAREHAM man is calling for greater awareness ahead of Meningitis Awareness Week.

Retired engineer David Gibson, 69, said he is "lucky to have survived" after contracting the disease last year and now wants people to be more educated on meningitis.

When David got meningitis, he became very cold and shaky, and following a visit to the GP, was given antibiotics for an infection.

But he became worse very quickly and was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis [inflammation of layers that surround the brain and spinal cord].

He said that he survived because he was given an early diagnosis and received excellent care.

David said: “Meningitis is to me a hidden disease that can have disastrous consequences. I had no idea what it was, and how lethal and disabling it could be, people need to be more aware of the disease and the effects it can have. You need strength and determination to live, and the support around you is extremely important as you go through the stages of recovery. Initially I lost my sense of taste but this returned soon after leaving hospital, as did loss of sensitivity to the tip of my nose and fingertips. More long term is short term memory loss and muscle waste.

"At this time I still have little power in my legs to push up and in my arms to lift, but this is a small price to pay."

He added: "I was called back for an aftercare interview by a nurse who helped me understand what had happened to me and about building up my strength again, and that it would take at least twelve months to recover. She confirmed that I had been very lucky to survive.”

This comes after a study involving 2000 people by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) found that a minority of the population understand the possible long-term effects of meningitis.

And as a result, MRF are also encouraging people affected by meningitis to share their stories and call for improved support.

During MRF’s Meningitis Awareness Week on September 16 to 22, the charity will explain how people can be affected by the disease.

CEO of MRF Vinny Smith said: “While many are aware that meningitis costs lives, fewer people know about the damage the disease can do to people’s long term health and their future. The cost to people can be immense, and sadly some never fully recover, so the right support is essential.”

Meningitis can cause blindness, depression, anxiety, tinnitus, memory loss, and learning difficulties.