PARALYMPIC champion Jonnie Peacock has warned the public to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis over the festive period.

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Sprinting sensation Peacock, from Doddington, contracted meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia aged five and had his right leg amputated below the knee.

Now, as a newly-appointed patron of the Meningitis Research Foundation, he is telling others to look out for the disease, which carries a heightened risk over Christmas and New Year when immune systems are weakened from fighting common colds.

Jonnie said: “It’s great to be working with the Meningitis Research Foundation to raise awareness of the disease and find ways to prevent it.

“I hope I can help make more people aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis so those who get it can be given medical attention quickly and have a better chance of survival.

“Having suffered with it myself, I know first-hand how awful it can be and the after effects on those around you. Hopefully my involvement will help make a difference.”

Jonnie’s mum Linda Roberts, who is also working with the foundation, has spoken about the disease to MPs and members of the House of Lords at a reception in Westminster.

She had members in tears after speaking about her son’s journey from five-year-old amputee to one of London 2012’s gold medal heroes.

Chris Head, chief executive of the foundation, said: “Jonnie is a role model to all young children and adults who have been left with serious after effects as a result of meningitis and septicaemia.

“He and his mum Linda have been incredibly supportive and we are thrilled they have agreed to take on more official roles.

“This is one of the peak periods for meningitis and septicaemia and I hope Jonnie’s support will help us to spread awareness of the symptoms more widely.”

Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia affects around 3,400 people across the UK each year. They are easily mistaken for milder illnesses, can kill within 24 hours and may cause serious, life-long disabilities.

For more information and a list of symptoms visit www.meningitis.org

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