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Dublin: 16 °C Thursday 4 June, 2020

HSE investigating potential 12th case of meningitis

Three people with the condition have died in recent weeks.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/adriaticfoto

THE HSE IS investigating a potential 12th case of meningitis after an increase in reported cases in recent weeks.

Eleven cases were notified in Ireland between 24 December and 6 January, compared with five cases in the same period 12 months previously.

Of these cases, three people died. None of the deaths were caused by meningococcal strains that are covered by the vaccines in the national childhood immunisation programme (B or C).

An additional possible case of the illness is now being investigated, the HSE has confirmed.

A spokesperson advised the public “to be vigilant regarding meningitis” and urged parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated as per the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme.

“This is not an outbreak, but reflects the known increased incidence of meningococcal disease in winter and early spring.

“Among the 11 cases, different age groups were affected, different strains were reported (B,C,W,Y), different regions of the country reported the cases and there were no links found between the cases,” they added.

There have been calls to extend the HSE’s free vaccination programme to protect older children against the B strain of the condition. It is currently only available to babies born since October 2016, as recommended by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

The HSE spokesperson said the NIAC makes recommendations on immunisations “based on epidemiology and international medical evidence”, stating: “Historically the incidence of meningitis B has been highest in infants under one year.”

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Dr John Cuddihy, Director of Public Health with HSE South, added: “We are advising parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated, as per the State’s Universal Immunisation Programme.

It is important that parents ensure their child completes all five sessions of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has said said early antibiotic usage is vital to prevent a person with meningitis from becoming dangerously ill.

The signs and symptoms include of the condition include:

  • Fever (sometimes with cold hands and feet)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Severe headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Discomfort from bright light
  • Neck stiffness
  • Vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea
  • A non-blanching rash may appear – it may be in the form of tiny red pin pricks that develop into purple bruises; this rash does not fade under pressure.

Anyone who believes they are showing symptoms has been advised to contact their GP.

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Órla Ryan

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