A MUM who lost her “beautiful little girl” nearly seven years ago is backing calls for people to be vigilant for symptoms of meningitis.

Andrea Walker says it is vital that people are aware of the signs and act quickly.

She was speaking after the charity, Meningitis Now, issued a warning for the public to be on its guard against the disease.

Cases of the deadly bacterial form of meningitis peak during winter months ­– when people spend a greater chunk of time indoors and germs are spread more easily.

Little Ellie Walker died – aged just three – in January, 2013.

She had contracted meningitis-linked streptococcal septicemia, a form of blood poisoning.

Ellie would have been ten years old today.

“I still find things very difficult,” said Mrs Walker, a town councillor, of Bar Lane, Riddlesden.

“It’s particularly hard on her birthdays.

“She was a beautiful little girl and I often wonder what she would be like now.

“It is so, so important that people know the symptoms of meningitis and waste no time in getting help if the signs are showing.”

Every year there are around 2,000 cases of bacterial meningitis in the UK.

Ten per cent of cases prove fatal, and in about a third of others the victim is left with after-effects such as brain damage or loss of hearing or sight – and where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs and scarring.

Meningitis Now says that in winter, fighting common infections such as colds and flu weakens people’s immune systems, leaving them more susceptible to the disease.

Dr Tom Nutt, for Meningitis Now, said: “Babies and children under five are most at risk of meningitis, with over half of all cases occurring in this age group.

“But the disease can affect anyone, of any age, at any time. Even those who consider themselves ‘fit and healthy’ may be left fighting for their life in a matter of hours.”

Symptoms of meningitis can include fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting, a headache, stiff neck, a dislike of bright light, muscle pain, pale blotchy skin and drowsiness, and in babies, a dislike of being handled, an unusual cry, rapid breathing and bulging fontanelle. For more information, visit meningitisnow.org.