A Hounslow student died within 48 hours of becoming ill with an increasingly common strain of meningitis, which is much harder to spot.

Paawan Purba, of Heston , died in hospital on August 27, two days after being told by a GP to take paracetamol and drink plenty of fluids.

The 20-year-old former Heston Community School and West Thames College student was just about to start her second year at the University of East London, where she was studying pharmacology.

Her devastated family told how she had been determined to help people since she was a young girl and hoped to develop life-saving cures for diseases.

They are desperate to raise awareness of meningitis W, the strain which killed her, in the hope of preventing more deaths.

Cases of meningitis W are rising in the UK, and it is harder to spot as it does not usually result in a rash - one of the symptoms most commonly associated with other strains of the disease.

'No other family should have to endure this heartbreak'

Her father Baldev Purba said it was vital young people and their families knew about the danger, and he felt too little had been done so far to raise awareness.

"We need to make people aware that this strain doesn't have all the symptoms of other types of meningitis. I checked for a rash and there wasn't one so I ruled out meningitis," he said.

"If I'd known a bit more I could have taken her to the hospital just a day earlier. It may not have saved her but it might have improved her chances.

Paawan's family said she chose to study pharmacology because she wanted to make everyone better

"It just takes basic education to improve awareness, especially among people starting university, and I believe more could be done.

"We would like to ensure that no family has to endure the heartbreak of losing someone so dear, and that our loss can be used to raise awareness of meningitis - symptoms, consequences and prevention.

"This is what she would have wanted."

Vaccine available to those starting university

A Men ACWY immunisation programme - protecting students against four strains of the disease - was introduced at schools last year, and the vaccine is also available to anyone aged under 25 who is starting university.

Paawan, who lived with her parents and younger sister, woke up on Thursday, August 25 with flu-like symptoms and told her parents she was feeling unwell.

They called her GP, who said her high temperature, loss of appetite and aches and pains in her neck were probably the result of a virus and advised her to drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol.

Her temperature dropped but she had still not eaten the following day, and in the early hours of Saturday her mother woke her and found she was breathing heavily and was unresponsive.

She was rushed to hospital, where she died that morning at 7.45am.

'She wanted to make everyone better'

"She was such a caring, sharing person. She loved her family and was always there for her friends," said her father.

"She was always smiling and somehow made time for everyone who needed her.

"Her grandfather died of kidney failure and her grandmother died when Paawan was very young of osteoporosis and leukaemia.

"She used to ask why someone couldn't make them better and I think that stuck with her.

"Science wasn't her forte to start with but she was determined to make a difference. She wanted to make everyone better.

"She wanted to develop cures for diseases, and with the determination she showed in her studies I think she could have achieved anything she put her mind to."

Paawan's family have set up a JustGiving page in her memory to raise funds for the Meningitis Research Foundation. More than £7,000 has been donated so far.

'Meningitis W cases have risen tenfold'

Feltham and Heston MP Seema Malhotra said it was vital to raise awareness of meningitis W as cases of the strain had risen tenfold in the last seven years.

"Our hearts go out to Paawan's family. She was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her and her death was truly tragic," she said.

"The way she came down with what seemed like flu, without the other normal symptoms of meningitis, shows why it's so important to raise awareness of the risks.

"Having the information and awareness out there will help save lives, and I'm backing the family's call to make the resources available for raising awareness and to increase take-up of the vaccine. I will be raising the matter in parliament."


  • Fever and/or vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Limb/joint/muscle pain (sometimes with stomach pain/diarrhoea)
  • Cold hand and feet/shivering
  • Pale or mottled skin
  • Breathing fast/breathless
  • Rash
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Very sleepy/vacant/difficult to wake
  • Confused/delirious
  • Seizures

* according to the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF)

'A race against time'

The MRF advises those who are worried about someone who is ill to trust their instincts.

"Someone who has meningitis or septicaemia could become seriously ill very quickly," the charity says.

"Get medical help immediately if you suspect meningitis or septicaemia - it's a race against time."