HSE warns of increase in meningitis cases

HSE warns of increase in meningitis cases

Parents of children should also check that they are up-to-date regarding their childhood meningococcal vaccinations.

Three people have died from meningitis in Ireland since the last week of December as the HSE warn there has been an increase in the disease.

The HSE has advised the public to be vigilant regarding meningococcal meningitis/septicaemia as there has been a noted increase in meningococcal disease in the country in the last two weeks.

Eleven cases have been notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) since the last week in December.

Three patients diagnosed with the disease have died.

The HSE said that all three deaths were directly due to this infection.

The eleven cases notified in week 52 2018 and week 1 2019 compares to 5 cases for the same time period last year.

In 2018 a total of 89 meningitis cases were notified compared to 76 in 2017.

“Although meningococcal disease incidence generally increases in the winter months, the recent increase is cause for concern and the HSE wishes to alert the public to the signs and symptoms of this disease so that immediate medical attention can be sought if someone has symptoms that could be caused by this bug,” said Dr Suzanne Cotter, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

“If anyone has any concerns about meningitis they should ring their GP in the first instance.

“Meningitis and septicaemia often happen together and symptoms can appear in any order. Some may not appear at all,” she added.

“Early symptoms can include; fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pain, stomach cramps, fever with cold hands and feet and a rash, but do not wait for the rash to appear.

“If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.

“Parents of children should also check that they are up-to-date regarding their childhood meningococcal vaccinations.” Provisional data on the strain types identified since week 52 2018 indicates that different strains of the organism are circulating and causing disease.

All age groups have been affected, ranging from infants to elderly.

Of the three patients who died, two different strain types were identified.

Following investigation, none of the patients with meningococcal disease have been identified as having had contact or links with each other.

Spread of meningococcal from person to person is very unusual, especially outside of close household contact.

A drop in the uptake of meningitis vaccines among children has been noted in recent years.

In Q2 2018, the uptake of MenC (first dose) for babies at 12 months was 90% in Q2 2018; the uptake for two doses of MenB at 12 months was 93% and the uptake of MenC at 24 months was 88%.

Among adolescents (1st year in secondary school) the uptake of MenC vaccine during the 2016-2017 academic year was 83.9%.

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