ONE person in the Cork/Kerry region has been diagnosed with meningitis since the beginning of the 2019 and a public health specialist has warned that an increase is expected.
The HSE says there has been a noted increase in meningococcal disease in the country in the last two weeks and that three people have died from meningitis in Ireland since the last week of December 2018.
Eleven cases, including one in the Cork/Kerry region, have been notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) since the last week in December.
There were nine confirmed cases in Cork and Kerry in 2018 and 12 in 2017.
“This is the time of year when we do tend to see more of the meningococcal diseases,” said Dr Fiona Ryan, of the Department of Public Health in HSE South.
“We also find that when we get a lot of flu in the community, that we do tend to see an increase in these diseases.
“At this time of year we would expect to see an increase but nationally, there is concern that it is more than we would have seen last year,” she added.
“Locally, we haven’t seen that increase yet but, at this time of year, we are expecting to see an increase in Cork and Kerry in the coming weeks or months.
“We have seen an increase in flu in the community in recent weeks.”
Twenty people tested positive for flu this week at Cork University Hospital after two were admitted to CUH last week with swine flu.
“When people have had the flu, their immunity is down and it allows the bug to get into their system and cause difficulties,” explained Dr Ryan.
“A lot of people will actually carry the bug, particularly those in their late teens or early twenties.
“Around one in five of these will carry the bug in their nose and throat and it won’t cause them any problems,” she added.
“However, for some people, the bug gets into their system, through the body’s defences and causes either blood poisoning or meningitis, which involves an inflammation on the lining of the brain.”
Dr Ryan urged parents to check the HSE website for information on symptoms if their child is unwell.
She also advised people to ensure they are up to date with their meningitis vaccines.
The HSE currently offers two for children which protect against the B strain and C strain.