A BOY who lost both legs to a serious illness has travelled to 10 Downing Street to help deliver an 18,000-signature petition calling for earlier vaccinations for sufferers.

Robbie Jones, five, from Bowburn , near Durham City, also lost the fingertips on one hand after contracting septicaemia, in 2008, aged 23 months.

He and his mother, Jill, were part of a delegation from the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) which travelled to London earlier this week.

The petition calls on the Government to pursue earlier implementation of vaccines to cover all types of meningitis and septicaemia.

Mrs Jones has joined MRF as a regional ambassador for its meningitis awareness week, which starts on Monday.

She said: “When Robbie was ill, the doctor said it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen. As a result, Robbie had to have both legs amputated and his fingertips have fallen off.

“We want to ensure everyone is aware of the dangers of the disease and every child is protected against all types of meningitis and septicaemia.”

MRF has 38 ambassadors across the country, who all have personal experience of the diseases.

Another is Sue Fishburn, from Darlington, whose son Ben was struck down by meningitis in 2001, aged 23.

She said: “Within a few hours of first feeling unwell, he was on life support where he remained for ten days.

“The whole recovery took six months before he was able to return to work. Thankfully, he had only a few after-effects, the main one being his hearing, but this awful disease strikes so quickly.”

Meningitis and septicaemia affects about 3,600 people in the UK and Ireland each year.

The diseases can strike without warning, killing one in ten sufferers and leaving a quarter of survivors with life-altering after-effects, such as brain damage and loss of limbs.

MRF’s research project, Counting the Cost of Meningitis, estimated the life-long costs to the UK Government of someone seriously disabled by the disease to be about £3m.

Visit meningitis.org or download the free iPhone app from bit.ly/MRFapp