The HSE is advising Kildare households 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 meningococcal disease have sadly died. All three deaths were directly due to this infection.
The eleven cases notified compares to five cases for the same time period last year. In 2018 a total of 89 meningococcal cases were notified compared to 76 in 2017.
According to Dr Suzanne Cotter, Specialist in Public Health Medicine, HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, “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.
“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. 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 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.
Meningitis is a serious illness involving inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by a variety of different germs, mainly bacterial and viruses. Bacterial meningitis is less common but is usually more serious than viral meningitis and requires urgent treatment with antibiotics and may be accompanied by septicaemia (blood poisoning). The bacteria live naturally in the nose and throat of normal healthy persons without causing illness and the spread of the bacteria is caused by droplets from the nose and mouth. The illness occurs most frequently in young children and adolescents, usually as isolated cases. Bacterial meningitis or septicaemia requires urgent antibiotic treatment.
A drop in the uptake of meningococcal 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%.