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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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West Cumbrian man launches campaign after nephew dies

A man who lost his six-week-old nephew to meningitis has launched a campaign in west Cumbria to fight the disease.

Meningitis baby photo
Michael Towne, Emma McElhinney and Callum

David Towne, 36, of Stainburn Road, Workington wants pregnant women to be routinely tested for group B streptococcus which can cause pneumonia or meningitis in newborn infants.

His brother Michael Towne and partner Emma McElhinney, of Fleetwood, Lancashire, lost their baby Callum in January after he picked up the bacteria when he was born.

But Mr Towne is determined that his nephew should not have died in vain and that what happened to his family does not happen to others.

Mr Towne wants people to sign a petition calling for the Department of Health to change the rules and offer women the test as a standard part of their antenatal care.

He said: “It means a lot to me emotionally because I have lost a nephew who I never got to see grow up.

“So far as I’m concerned Callum died needlessly: It could so easily have been prevented. It’s hard to understand why it isn’t already part of antenatal care.”

Mr Pinder added: “Lives can be wrecked for the sake of a simple test.”

Together with his friend Shane Pinder, 39, also of Stainburn Road, he has already collected 37 signatures in Workington.

The two are asking local businesses to display their petition and plan to expand the campaign to Maryport and Cockermouth.

Mr Towne said: “My brother and family in Fleetwood are campaigning so we thought we would do what we could around here.”

The campaign needs 100,000 signatures before the Department of Health will look at their concerns.

The bacteria can be found living harmlessly in the walls of the birth canal and intestines of 50 per cent of healthy women and can be passed on to the baby when in the mother or during delivery.

Symptoms can show within the first 24 hours of life, appearing either as pneumonia or meningitis.

The condition is the most common cause of severe infections in newborn babies.

Group B streptococcal infections affect one in 2,000 babies born every year in the UK and Ireland. About 340 babies a year will develop group B streptococcal infection within seven days of birth.

To find out more about the campaign or to make a donation visit http://meningitisuk.tributefunds.com/fund/Callum+Charlie+Towne/showFund.

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