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Meningitis warning issued

Wednesday, 16th January, 2019 4:48pm

People are being asked to be alert to the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia after an increase in meningococcal disease in recent weeks.

The warning was issued by the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) after the HSE confirmed that there have been 11 cases reported since the last week of 2018. Three of the people diagnosed with meningococcal disease (the leading cause of meningitis in Ireland) have died.

This compares to five cases for the same time period last year. In 2018, a total of 89 meningococcal cases were reported compared to 76 in 2017.

The recent cases affected all age groups, ranging from infants to elderly. The disease and deaths have not been caused by a single strain of meningococcal bacteria, but have been caused by multiple strains. Diane McConnell, Regional Director at MRF said: “We are saddened to learn that a number of people have been affected by meningitis and septicaemia in recent weeks. Our thoughts and condolences go out to these individuals and their family and friends.

“MRF has been supporting people for the past 29 years and anyone with questions or concerns can call the free MRF helpline on 1800-413344 (Ireland) or email helpline@meningitis.org or visit meningitis.org. We’re here to help anyone affected.

“Sadly we see more people affected by meningitis and septicaemia during winter, particularly around Christmas. This is thought to be due to the bacteria being able to invade the body more easily via the nose and throat at this time of year due to recent infection with flu virus, and because the bacteria can spread more rapidly when people spend longer periods indoors in close proximity.”

Ms McConnell continued: “Meningococcal bacteria are transmitted from person to person by close contact with others such as coughing, sneezing, kissing etc, but usually we have to be in very close or regular contact with someone for the bacteria to pass between us. Even when this happens, most of us will not become ill because we have natural immunity. The bacteria cannot live longer than a few moments outside the human body, so they are not carried on things like clothes and bedding, toys or dishes.

“We encourage everyone to take up the offer of all the vaccines that are included in routine immunisation schedule to protect themselves and their families. No single vaccine protects against all strains of meningococcal disease and vaccines against some forms of the disease are not routinely available so it is vital that people are aware of the symptoms,” she concluded.

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